The 2003—04 race season turn-ed out to be a bumpy one for the U.S. Ski Team. While Bode Miller and Daron Rahlves crushed much of the competition, winning the World Cup giant slalom title and runner-up spots in super G and downhill, respectively, it seemed as if their comrades couldn't stay healthy. Naturally, many assume that Daron and Bode will be the ringleaders of the 2004—05 White Circus. But their teammates are fully mended and ready to race. With the 2005 World Championships in Bormio, Italy, and the Torino 2006 Olympics around the corner, the men and women of U.S. alpine racing could very well elbow their way onto the world stage this season. Women begin racing at Aspen on November 26; men kick off winter at Beaver Creek on Novem-ber 30. Here's a quick preview of the contenders beyond the two big dogs.
Erik Schlopy: During Ame-rica's Opening in Park City last fall, the 2003 World Champion-ship slalom bronze medalist wrenched his left knee on a sticky turn during his first run, tearing his ACL. He underwent surgery, sat out the season, and returned to the snow in May. "I'm feeling great, he says. "I plan to be 100 percent by the beginning of the season.
Marco Sullivan: This Squaw Valley local has been turning heads since taking a top-ten spot in the 2002 Olympic downhill. That year, he also followed in Bode Miller's bootsteps by earning a FIS winStar award for his leap in the standings after a low start position. Last December, he blew out his knee while training at Beaver Creek, but Sullivan is "one to look out for, says coach Johno McBride. "He's been doing great coming off his injury.
Kirsten Clark: "She has no fear of anything, says coach Alex Hoedel-moser, after watching "Clarky, the 2003 World Championships super G silver medalist, rip Chile's Portillo to shreds just eight months after tearing ligaments in both her knees and breaking a wrist. "She didn't have any pain in her knees, which was awesome…I was blown away, Hoedelmoser adds.
Bryna McCarty: McCarty, 21, overcame a sore throat (OK, so she wasn't exactly injured) at a World Cup event in Haus, Austria, last January to take a career-best fifth. She's also the reigning North American super G champion.