Burnsville, MN, Nov. 28, 2000--Kristina Koznick, US Ski Team slalom ace, left the umbrella of the national squad. Unresolved differences led her, along with favorite coach Dan Stripp, to part ways with USST last spring. Although the decision to go solo hasn't yet paid off for any Americans, Koznick may just be borrowing a page from the Austrians, who have a long history of precarious alliances.
Remember Marc Girardelli? The five-time winner of the World Cup overall title was born in Austria. By age 14, when his advance up the ski team wasn't swift enough to suit his father, Helmut and Marc Girardelli promptly moved to Luxembourg. With only his father's coaching and no support staff, the younger Girardelli went on to win 46 World Cup races, 11 World Championship and two Olympic medals.
Another Austrian, Bernard Knauss, is the premier money winner in pro-racing history. As a youngster, he became ill and was ousted from the national ski team. After clawing his way up the pro ranks, Knauss still dreamed of Olympic competition. He got a dual passport for nearby Slovenja, trained with that team, and retired after finally racing in Nagano.
The trademark depth of Team Austria's talent leaves little room for lackluster results or differences of opinion; other alumni include Claudia Reigler, now racing for New Zealand and Elfi Eder, who competed under a passport for Grenada until her recent retirement. Reigler is currently ranked 11th in the world for slalom.
Kristina Koznick, as a one-woman team, isn't unprecedented - just unusual for America. Due to her world ranking, 5th in slalom and 29th in giant slalom, 'Koz' is still guaranteed starts at all World Cup races this season, but she is required to race in the USST uniform. Longtime equipment sponsors, Volkl, Tecnica, and Marker have stayed on board, but Koznick is trying to raise additional funds. She estimates her 2000-2001 budget at $150,000 and has opened a website to post information and sell t-shirts.
At www.koznick.com, the racer states, "At this point in my career I know that to attain my goals of winning the World Cup slalom title, World Championship gold and Olympic gold in 2002, it is best for me to have my own training program."