Koznick Ends Season with Another Win

Guide Jerry Laverty gives a quick lesson on how to search for an avalanche victim in the heli barn.

Bormio, Italy Mar. 19 (AP by Vania Grandi)--For Kristina Koznick, one victory leads to another.

Fresh off a slalom win in Sestriere, Italy, last week, the American triumphed again Sunday in the final World Cup race of the season.

It was a grand finale to a season that got off to a frustrating start.

``I was struggling so much all year,'' Koznick said. ``It's great to end it like this. It gives me a big boost.''

Koznick, from Burnsville, Minn., won two slaloms last season and started this year's campaign with high expectations. But she had trouble adjusting to new equipment after switching sponsors and reducing the length of her skis, failing repeatedly to break the top 10.

By mid-February she had adapted and the results showed it: fourth in Santa Caterina, Italy; second in Are, Sweden; and then her first season victory in Sestriere.

That win was the first for an American woman since Koznick clinched a night slalom in Semmering, Austria, in December 1998.

On Sunday, Koznick moved up from second in the opening run to win the race on the steep and rutted Stelvio course in this Italian Alps resort.

``After Sestriere, I was relaxed and I knew I could do well here.'' Koznick said. ``It's been a long winter but at the same time I feel like I could go on winning so I don't really want it to be over.''

She surged too late to clinch the World Cup slalom crown, which went to Slovenian Spela Pretnar. Koznick ended fifth in the discipline standings.

It gives her a goal for next year.

``I want the slalom title,'' Koznick said this week. ``I know I can win it if I am consistent _ consistently in the top three, not the top 15.''

Only 24 years old, Koznick is a 10-year veteran of the U.S. Ski Team and has raced on the World Cup circuit five years.

But she's planning to race for years to come, looking forward to next year's world championships in St. Anton, Austria, and then the Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002.

``It's better that I struggled this year rather than next year when there are medals to fight for,'' she said.

Copyright (c) 2000 The Associated Press