Koznick can’t disguise disappointment
Kristina Koznick held back tears Sunday after likely her last World Cup race on home snow.A year after a finishing third in Aspen in the concluding Winternational slalom, Koznick was 14th in the same race – the first slalom of the young World Cup season. Her combined two-run time of 1 minute, 38.24 seconds was the best showing for an American woman, but Koznick wasn’t smiling.”It’s pretty disappointing because obviously I would have liked to have won a World Cup in the U.S.,” she said, before pausing to gather her emotions. “I’ve been training really well and I feel really comfortable for the first time in a long time.”At 30, Koznick reiterated Sunday that she plans to retire this year after 15 seasons of World Cup racing. Before then, she hopes to win an elusive Olympic medal at the Winter Games in Turin, Italy, in February and add to a resume that includes six World Cup wins and 20 podiums.Last year when she finished third and sixth in the two World Cup slaloms here, her equipment setup didn’t feel comfortable, Koznick said. The skis felt great Sunday, which only added to the disappointment, Koznick said.”The last couple of years on the new skis, I’ve just have yet to find my comfort. I finally feel like I’ve found it, but my results don’t show it,” she said. “I’ve just gotta keep going. I know the more comfortable I get, the faster I’ll get.”The only other two Americans to qualify for Sunday’s second run of 30 racers were 21-year-olds Lindsey Kildow and Julia Mancuso. Mancuso, after minimal slalom training, fought to maintain rhythm in both runs, finishing 19th in 1:38.66.
Kildow, who entered Sunday’s slalom tied for third in the women’s overall, couldn’t hold an edge on an inside turn near the top of her second run and nearly missed a gate. She was last in the final run, finishing with a combined time of 1:38.66.Kildow shrugged off the result. She said she asked her ski technician to dull her edges before the second run for less traction on the sticky snow, but the plan backfired. “The first run they were too sharp,” she said. “This one they were too dull. I couldn’t really catch a break. I was skiing well, though. I’m not really worried about it. You just gotta go out there and give it hell every day.”The word “indifferent” described Mancuso as well. To be able to finish both runs was encouraging, but a better result would have been nice, she said.”It’s sort of a warm-up for me,” she said. “I’ve always had a little bit of a tougher time to get going. Just sort of taking it as if it is training. I’m pretty psyched with my results because things weren’t really going that great for me coming into the race. I’m excited to get to the finish line twice.”Mancuso did lead in the fashion category Sunday. Instead of wearing a helmet and a face guard, she raced in a fur hat topped with a plastic crown.”My coaches gave it to me,” she said in her typical deadpan. “They told me I was the queen.” The four other American racers who started Sunday – all members of the women’s alpine B and C teams – were a package of potential mixed with youthful inexperience.
Lauren Ross of Morrisville, Vt., came closest to earning a second run, but lost her cadence 10 feet from the finish line and finished tied for 32nd. “The snow is just super aggressive,” Ross said. “It’s really grippy and it’s a really tight course. It wasn’t a sweet feeling. I got stuck in a couple of sections.”Kaylin Richardson, 21, of Minneapolis finished tied for 42nd. Jenni Lathrop, 22, of Portland, Maine, was skiing well on the top half of the course before a bobble sent her off course. Grant Sterling also failed to finish after she crashed 10 seconds into the first run.The team result was as good as could be expected with veteran technical specialist Sarah Schleper recovering from back surgery, and with minimal slalom training, Kildow said. “I think Julia and I are skiing well in slalom and it’s kind of making up for the slack,” Kildow said. “I think we have a lot of depth. Some of the younger girls aren’t coming through. They definitely have the potential and they definitely have the talent. It’s just a matter of putting it down in a race. A lot of us have family here. I think the event has something to do with it. I don’t think it was terrible. It was good skiing, it’s just not quite there yet.” The American women’s team is strongest in the speed events – and it showed with the three races on Aspen Mountain.The best results came in Friday’s super G, with Kirsten Clark in fifth and Kildow in seventh. Mancuso led the way Saturday with a 12th in giant slalom.
As expected, Koznick – the best technical skier of the group – was in contention to earn a spot in the top 10 Sunday. The tight course set, however, didn’t play to her strengths, she said. “I’m going to have to start training harder,” she said. “I definitely do better when it’s more open and there’s more room for me to use my power. I have a little training to do, but I know I’m not far off and I just have to keep my head up and keep going.”The rest of the American women’s team has to keep going, too – on to Val D’Isere, France, today to begin training for a downhill and super G Saturday and Sunday. Kildow, after winning her second downhill in Lake Louise, Alberta, before the Aspen World Cup races, was excited to get back to racing in the speed events. She fell from third to fifth in the women’s World Cup overall race Sunday, with Anja Paerson moving into second and Janica Kostelic into second after a 1-2 finish in the slalom.Michaela Dorfmeister of Austria still leads with 334 points, 112 points ahead of Kildow.Koznick kept her hopes up with the thought of stronger results in the season’s remaining races, and the prospect of winning at the Olympics. Sunday’s slalom, albeit being a very important race in her mind, was just one race.”Everybody wants to be the best in the world,” she said. “Everyone wants Olympic gold. Everyone wants World Championship gold. There’s not that many of them in the world. For sure, I have yet to accomplish all my goals. If you hang on for those reasons, you’re never going to achieve them anyway. I just have to keep giving every single race my best.”Nate Peterson’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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In the 50-mile race, three-time Olympian and Aspen bred Simi Hamilton bombed down Fanny Hill to capture the overall men’s title. Hamilton, who retired from professional cross-country skiing earlier this year, completed the race in a time of 4 hours, 17 minutes, 19 seconds. Nicole Tittensor, from Axtell, Utah, was the first woman to finish the 50-mile race.