Georgetown, Colo. Nov. 17, 2001 (USSA)--Kristina Koznick (Burnsville, MN), whohadn't planned to race until she learned $10,000 was on the line to betop American, earned the first 2002 Olympic Team berth for the U.S. SkiTeam Saturday, finishing third -- but No. 1 American -- in a NatureValley Alpine Cup slalom at sun-bathed Loveland Ski Area.
The Olympic berth and cash went to the winner of the U.S. Ski Team GoldCup, the race-within-the-race. Karin Koellerer of Austria, fourth afterthe first run, hung-up the second-fastest second run and finished with atwo-run time of 1:46.30. Slovakian 17-year-old Veronika Zuzulova wassecond in 1:46.51 and Koznick held on to third place in the field of 102with a time of 1:47.16.
Sarah Schleper (Vail, CO) was 20th with junior Erika Hogan (Holmes,NY), a Stratton Mountain School racer, 22nd and Reisi Stiegler (JacksonHole, WY) 28th.
After the first run, Koznick said she had seen a lot of racersintimidated, so when she started No. 17, she ripped from the start. Onthe second run, skiing 30th in the flip-30 format -- and with more thana three-second lead on Schleper, the second American in the opening run,Koznick held back to ensure she finished the race. As the acknowledgedtop U.S. slalom skier, she wasn't as concerned about making the OlympicTeam as she was about collecting the $10,000 top prize.
Koz: "I'm skiing really well..."
"I knew, standing in the start second run, as icy as it was, that Ijust needed to finish to win $10,000 and that's something I definitelycame for, and I'd be lying if I say I didn't come for the money," saidKoznick. "It was really challenging and I don't like skiing to finish.It's just not a pleasure...but at the same time, I know I'm skiingreally well. I proved it my first run, and the goal is to win in CopperMountain, Colo." when the World Cup resumes Wednesday.
"Unfortunately, Sarah and Caroline Lalive - Steamboat Springs, COboth had rough days and it was really between the three of us for theOlympic spot and the $10,000. Unfortunately, first run Sarah had troubleand then Caroline -- luckily she's okay -- went down. So, I knew allthis and I wanted somebody nipping at my heels. If there was someonenipping at my heels, you would've seen Koz, you would've seen me racing.And, unfortunately, there wasn't and all I had to do was standup...
"If it was just like I was top American but I didn't put anythingtogether, then I'd really be disappointed. but, the fact of the matteris I'm skiing great. I raced first run and that's what I have insideme...and I'm happy."
U.S. coach likes "bright lights" from the back
U.S. women's Head Coach Marjan Cernigoj said the intimidation factorwas very real in the first run, including Schleper being anxious aboutthe ice. "I think the second run was definitely a booster for Sarah andI think she'll definitely build on it Sunday. she can make top-10 andwe'll gladly take it. There was a lot of intimidation from the entirefield about the snow conditions. Hardly anybody had a chance to practiceon something like this. Second run was already a lot better for theentire field."
He had high praise for Lindsey C. Kildow (Vail, CO) and Lalive for theway they attacked the top part of the 54-gate course before going downin the first run.
Cernigoj also said Steigler and Hogan, two teenagers, caught hisattention with their skiing. "They had high numbers Hogan started 88th,Steigler 85th but they showed confident skiing. It was not all thatpretty but it was fast, it was down the hill, it was gutsy...and that'sexactly what we want. They were definitely two very bright spots fromthe very back."
The Nature Valley Alpine Cup concludes Sunday with another women'sslalom. First run is at 10 a.m. MST.