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US Ski Team: The Next Generation
Special '98-'99 Season Preview

Koznick: US Slalom Hopeful
Photo courtesy of USSA
Man-o-man-o-schevitz! The action was wild and woolly last season on the White Circus.

Wham-Bam-Thank-you-Ma’am Picabo made a stunning comeback — won Olympic Gold and then broke her leg at the World Cup finals.

"The Herminator" Hermann Maier blows everybody away on the World Cup — almost blows himself away in the Nagano downhill, but Herman AND the Austrians end up winning everything anyway.

Kristina "The Koz" Koznick: This tough Minnesota gal boosted American hearts by slammin’ her way to second overall in World Cup Slalom. This, after years of injury and disappointment.

Katja "The Ice Queen" Seizinger: This German proved again that she is the best of the best, winning Olympic Gold and three World Cup titles.

All this and El Niño...Hell, more Yanks don’t answer the bell...skiing is swell and this poetry stinks.

It's split focus again this season as the World Championships share center stage with the World Cup tour. Vail/Beaver Creek in Colorado get the nod again (1989) during the first two weeks of February and all the usual suspects will be there, including yours truly and the "crack" Mountain Zone staff. Lets get rollin’ by catching up on the rebuilding U.S. Squad.

Well, sort of. Four of the top men's racers and a woman on the US team have officially retired: downhillers AJ Kitt, Tommy Moe and Kyle Rasmussen have gone fishin’ full time, along with technical skier Matt Grosjean. On the women’s team, Julie Parisien has hung it up again.

Moe is Among the Retirees
Photo: Nathan Bilow
Tommy achieved the highest level of this veteran group; winning the 1994 Olympic Downhill and taking silver in Super-G in Lillehammer. His success on the World Cup was less spectacular, in which his closest was a second in the Super-G at Tignes in 1995.

The affable but hard luck Moe torched his knee at the end of the 1995-'96 season and never really returned to form. And in early 1997 he sliced his hand open on a broken beer bottle in Kitzbuehl — another recovery. Last season he looked for another Olympic miracle in Nagano but it was not to be.

AJ Kitt grew up on the hard snow of the Adirondacks near his hometown of Rochester, NY. He won early and often as he ascended to the World Cup level: multiple National downhill titles and a huge World Cup downhill win in Val d’Isere in 1991. He also won the downhill bronze in the 1993 Worlds but had a horrible run of bad lucks as four other apparent victories were taken away due to weather problems — two of them (1993 and 1995) were in Aspen.

With five other World Cup top-3s in his career and a third in the 1992 World Cup downhill standings, Kitt zippered his knee in 1996 and called it a career this past Spring.

The third "amigo" on the downhill team to call it a career is "cowboy" Kyle Rasmussen of Angel’s Camp, CA. Kyle, who won two World Cup races in '95, retired after 13 seasons of international ski racing. Rasmussen suffered torn knee ligaments in 1997, but he returned a year ago to race in his third Olympics. Ultimately though, "It's just that I've wanted to get on with my life," he said. Rasmussen said he was looking forward to spending more time with his growing family. He and wife Linda have two children. He plans to work with California's Bear Valley Ski Area, which was founded by his grandfather.

Twenty-seven-year-old California kid Matt Grosjean finally got on track in the 1996-'97 season in his specialty, slalom. After years of disappointment, Grosjean reeled off several top-10 finishes and took fourth in both the Kranskja Gora slalom and the Wengen combined. He won three U.S. titles, but has decided to go the "real job" route.

A World Cup rookie (2nd go-round) at 27, Julie Parisien is now a tried and true veteran. The Auburn, Maine, native has been here before. After taking the slalom silver at the 1993 World Championships, winning three World Cup slalom races and being ranked Numero Uno, Parisien quit. She went pro and won three straight slalom titles, but with the fame and fortune still on the World Cup, she came back last season, starting at the back of the pack to qualify for World Cup and the Olympics — and she did it.

In fact, Julie finished a very respectable 13th in the Olympic slalom and wrapped up her comeback season by winning the U.S. Combined title. But early this fall, Julie took another long look in the mirror and said goodbye to skiing forever.

Those retirements, combined with the second serious injury to superstar Picabo Street, leaves few top-quality veterans to lead the 1998-'99 American squad.

Heres a look at the best of the bunch:

Kristina Koznick's Results:
1 '98 WC-SL Are, NOR
2 '98 WC-SL Lienz, AUT
2 '98 WC-SL Bormio, ITA
3 '98 WC-SL Saalbach, AUT
4 '98 WC-SL Bormio, ITA
4 '98 WC-SL Lienz, AUT
4 '98 WC-SL Park City, UT
4 '98 WC-SL Crans-Montana, SUI
6 '98 WC-SL Val d'Isere, FRA
10 '93 WC-SL Are, SWE
11 '97 WC-SL Mammoth Mtn, CA
11 '96 WC-SL Vail, CO
11 '95 WC-SL Lenzerheide, SUI
12 '95 WC-SL Maribor, SLO
1 '98 SL Jackson, WY
1 '97 SL Sugarloaf, ME
1 '96 SL Sugarloaf, ME
1 '95 SL Park City, UT
Kristina Koznick: this big, strappin’ Burnsville, Minnesota, girl came up through the famous Erich Sailer ski program at Buck Hill, outside Minneapolis. She showed lots of promise but a rash of weird injuries and awful equipment held her back until last season when "Koz" kicked major Euro booty on her way to almost winning the Slalom World Cup. She finished second overall and notched her first World Cup win along with no less than seven top-five finishes. Unfortunately, she crashed in the Nagano Olympic slalom.

"I'd have loved to do well in the Olympics, but look at the rest of my season. I'm looking to have another run at the Olympics, but I'm really looking forward to this season," Koznick said.

And she's certainly got the support of Team Coach George Capaul, who said, "she's stellar; a hard worker who doesn't make excuses. She showed last year what she can do when she's healthy, and she'll be more dangerous this year."

So Koz proved she is a force to be reckoned with this season and for many to come. Hey! she’s only 23!

Megan Gerety's Results:
5 '97 WC-DH Vail, CO
5 '96 WSC-DH Sierra Nevada, SPA
5 '93 WC-DH Lake Louise, ALB
5 '91 WC-DH Vail, CO
7 '93 WC-DH Hafjell, NOR
8 '96 WC-DH Val d'Isere, FRA
8 '95 WC-DH Vail, CO
9 '93 WC-SG Vail, CO
20 '94 OWG-DH Kvitfjell, NOR
* - Missed most of '98 with knee injury
* - Has won 2 U.S. titles (DH - '91, '95)
The rest of the team: Megan Gerety makes yet another comeback from injury. The 27-year-old Alaska native re-injured her knee and it meant more surgery, more rehab. Both of Gerety’s top-five finishes on the World Cup have been at Vail.

"I've done well there (Vail). I started World Cup racing there and it's done some good things for me. So, when I'm burning-out in the weight room, that's something I think about," Gerety said.

This bodes well considering the Worlds are there next February. But she needs to regain that speed confidence first.

"She wants to win a medal in Vail, and that's understandable, of course. Megan will ski a lot of super G with some downhills in there. She's a hard worker. Physically, she knows what she needs to do," her coach, Jim Tracy, said.

Daron Rahlves' Results:
7 '98 SG Nagano, JPN
20 '98 GS Nagano, JPN
WORLD CUP (Top 20)
4 '95 SG Kvitfjell, NOR
6 '97 SG Vail, CO
6 '96 SG Valloire, FRA
7 '98 SG Garmisch, GER
7 '97 SG Kvitfjell, NOR
8 '97 SG I Garmisch, GER
10 '98 SG Kvitfjell, NOR
10 '98 SG Schladming, AUT
11 '97 SG V al d'Isere, FRA
11 '97 SG Laax, SUI
11 '95 SG Bormio, ITA
1 '96 GS Sugarloaf, ME
1 '95 GS Park City, UT
3 '98 DH Jackson, WY
2 '96 SG Sugarloaf, ME 96)
Daron Rahlves: The 25-year-old Rahlves, of Truckee, CA. knows he’s "snakebit" but he keeps coming back anyway. Rahlves, who races GS, Super-G and downhill has suffered vaious injuries over the past several seasons: hip dislocations, shoulder separations, and broken collarbones. In spite of these, he has earned the only mens’ "A" team member ranking. Daron was healthy for most of last season and showed his stuff in his specialty, Super-G, with eight top-10s on the World Cup and a strong seventh place finish in Nagano.

This season Rahlves will be shooting for for overall points as the leader of the men’s squad. Unfrozen water note: Daron turned to ski racing full time after winning the Expert Class world title at the '93 Jet ski World Championships on Lake Havasu, AZ.

Chad Fleischer's Results:
11 '96 WC-SG Garmisch, GER
12 '95 WC-DH Val d'Isere, FRA
15 '96 WC-SG Nagano, JPN
18 '97 WSC-DH Sestriere, ITA
19 '97 WC-DH Bormio, ITA
19 '97 WC-DH Chamonix, FRA
20 '97 WC-DH Val d'Isere, FRA
20 '97 WC-SG Val d'Isere, FRA
* - 1 U.S. title (DH, '96)
Chad Fleischer: the 26-year-old Vail native wants to improve on his five World Cup top-20s in '97 and two World Cup top-15s the year before. Fleischer claims to be re-focused in his sixth season on the US team and wants to contend all season, and especially during the World Championships in his hometown.

Fleischer lost almost 30 pounds after being hobbled last December by salmonella in Europe. He worked with a personal nutritionist and trainer to become what he hopes is the strongest skier on the World Cup.

"These young guys coming along are gunning for me and Daron the way [Craig] Thrasher and I gunned for AJ [Kitt], Tommy [Moe] and Kyle [Rasmussen]. I like their hunger," Chad said.

Yes, we did mention youth movement:

Jonna Mendes has seen the world several times over and she’s still a teenager. The 19-year-old product of South Lake Tahoe had an excellent year at several levels: World Junior downhill champ, NorAm Super-G silver medalist and 17th in the Nagano Olympic downhill. "Breakthrough year" is a fitting term and Mendes has the talent and drive to win World Cups in the near future. Definitely a top-15 contender this season, and with the World’s at Vail, who knows?

Kirsten Clark finished last season as the U.S. downhill champion after a strong year that brought her 12th in World Cup Super-G in Val d'Isere, France. Moved to more speed events after starting as a GS skier, Clark will have to help lead the women’s squad that is missing "superstar-champion-of-everything" Picabo Street. The Sugarloaf, Maine kid should crack to the top-15 in Super-G or downhill.

Katie Monahan had two European FIS-B wins in GS last season and was the Silver medalist in combined at '98 Nationals, but now it's time for the 26-year-old Aspen native to step up. Katie got more World Cup points in Super-G and downhill last season as she gained valuable experience in Europe and this season she is looking to move up in SG this winter (like top 15 move up).

"Katie's ready for a breakthrough. She's a team leader with all that experience and being so competitive," Coach Capaul said.

Jason Rosener: The 23-year-old Breckenridge CO. native is carrying on the U.S. downhill tradition and should move up in the World Cup rankings this season. Rosener surprised in Nagano with a 15th in the downhill and scored Three World Cup downhill top-25s last season. He scored his first World Cup points in the opening downhill of the season, on Beaver Creek's Birds of Prey course which will be the '99 World Championships runs, so that bodes well for a much improved season.

Bode Miller
Bode Miller
Speaking of boding well, Bode Miller is another young hotshot who looks to do better this go-around. The 21-year-old from Franconia, New Hampshire burst onto the World Cup circuit with an 11th in his opening GS. Miller worked hard last season and was rewarded with the U.S. National GS title for his efforts. Bode recently injured his hand but should be back on snow in November.

This could be a bell-weather season for slalom specialist Chip Knight of New Canaan, CT. A former World Junior slalom champ, Chip is coming back this season from left knee ligament surgery done last spring. Knight spent the summer in rehab with BMA Conditioning Coach Bill Knowles. He had his best season in '97, earning his first World Cup points and posting four top-25s. The 24-year-old could take over for Grosjean as slalom leader if he has recovered.

Brett Fischer, 21, of Winter Park, CO began skiing at age two and has worked his way through the ranks. In 1996, he copped with three medals (two gold) at the Junior Olympics. A knee injury in '97 slowed him, but Fischer rebounded last winter, even getting a second at the FIS Downhill in Wengen. He can be considered one of the "young guns" in the speed events.

Any way you slice it, the U.S. Ski Team is rebuilding again after a huge retirement party and key injuries. But Kosnick and Rahlves should lead the charge to Vail for the Worlds, and who knows? Hometown support has always worked in the past.

— Eric Moffit, Mountain Zone Correspondent

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