December 30, 1974 12:00 PM

Ski racer Cindy Nelson had just been picked for the 1972 U.S. Winter Olympics team when she took a bad fall and dislocated her hip. Recovered now, and tuning up for the 1976 Games, the 19-year-old blonde from Lutsen, Minn. is America’s number one hope for a skiing gold medal. Competing on the World Cup circuit this winter, she hopes to make a prophet of U.S. Alpine team coach Hank Tauber, who says she’s “ready to challenge the best.”

The fastest-rising tennis star in the U.S., Billy Martin was only a 9-year-old when he began trimming the tennis shorts off older opponents. At 15, he played in the U.S. championships at Forest Hills and won a set from a startled Stan Smith. Now he is an 18-year-old UCLA freshman boasting wins over pros like Smith, Tom Gorman and Mexico’s Raul Ramirez. Ranking 22nd in the country—up from 57th a year ago—he hopes to break in to the top 10 in 1975, and may turn pro before the end of the year.

As observed from ground level, it seems unlikely that anyone could overshadow David Thompson. Still, for nearly two years, while Thompson was shooting his way to basketball All-America honors with North Carolina State, most of the national publicity went to Bill Walton and UCLA. Then last spring Thompson lead his team to the NCAA championship, and later Walton turned pro. Now Thompson has the collegiate spotlight—and often the ball—all to himself. Coolly turning down a $2 million offer to turn pro, the 6’4″ senior says he’d rather graduate first. The pros can’t wait until June.

Pro football talent hunters are nothing if not Pavlovian, and whenever they see Randy White they salivate. “Imagine him roaming down the line and crushing people play after play,” gushes one. A 248-pound defensive tackle from the University of Maryland, White reminds some people of linebacker Dick Butkus, the Chicago Bears’ onetime principal carnivore. That’s just one reason White is the likely first choice in next month’s National Football League draft. His probable destination: Dallas or Baltimore.

Tim Shaw may never top Mark Spitz in commercial endorsements or sexy posters, but the shy 17-year-old schoolboy from Long Beach, Calif. has already started smashing Mark’s records. Offering a demonstration of things to come—perhaps this season—the myopic young swimmer splashed his way to three world records at last summer’s U.S. championships, sweeping the 200-, 400-, and 1,500-meter freestyle. His reward? In the excitement a friend broke Shaw’s glasses.

Last season Oakland A’s pitcher Jim “Catfish” Hunter won 25 games and helped his teammates take the World Series. But a contractual dispute with owner Charlie Finley (page 44) left a sour taste in Catfish’s mouth, and this month he was allowed to declare himself a free agent. Next season, out from Finley’s fiefdom, Hunter (shown here with Chief, one of his 50 dogs) could easily become one of baseball’s richest players. Bidding for the services of Catfish’s right arm started in the $1 million range.

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