U.S. ALPINE skier Lindsey Kildow has long been burdened by her own promise. She won an international race in Italy at age 14, followed by three medals in the junior world championships. She earned a place on the 2002 Olympic team at age 17 and, six weeks after her 20th birthday, had her first World Cup victory, at a downhill in Canada in December 2004. But despite that glittering résumé, success at major championships was more elusive—until last week. Kildow is at last wearing international medals, having won silvers in the Super G and downhill races at the biennial World Ski Championships in Are, Sweden.
The medals came a year too late for Kildow to reap the benefits of the Olympic success that was widely expected of her in 2006. But at age 22, and finally off the championship schneid, she's now skiing more confidently and seems likely to win again. "Last year was a disappointment," Kildow said after the downhill on Sunday, the second of her silver medal performances and the first U.S. women's downhill worlds medal since Hilary Lindh won gold in 1997. "I wanted to have all that success and be on Jay Leno and do all the cool things that Olympic medalists get to do. But life happens. You've got to roll with the punches."
At the '06 Olympics in Turin, Kildow, a native of Burnsville, Minn., crashed during downhill training. She finished three events but was too battered (she skied with a bruised hip) to contend for medals. Meanwhile, teammate and longtime rival Julia Mancuso won the U.S. women's team's only Olympic medal with a gold in the giant slalom. (Mancuso also won a silver in the combined event last week in Are, giving the U.S. women three medals in three events, all won by Sweden's Anja Paerson. Mancuso was also among the favorites in the giant slalom, which was to be contested on Tuesday).
Kildow spent the summer increasing her endurance with extended cycling workouts, leaving her strong at the end of a long season that began in October. She has been among the best skiers on the World Cup circuit all season, with three victories and eight top three finishes. That was only half the battle; Kildow also needed the mental strength to deliver under pressure in a championship event. "That's just trial and error," says Kildow. "You have to keep learning every day. I feel like I've matured so much since my first world championships. And I am so excited that I've finally broken through that barrier."