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Skier quits team, goes for gold on her own

By Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 12, 2000

The best Alpine skier in the United States will be skiing for her country and wearing her country's uniform this winter. But she will not be skiing for her country's ski team in her quest for Olympic gold in 2002.

Kristina Koznick, 25 this month, is the highest-ranked U.S. skier. She was the 1998 and '99 World Cup slalom champion, has won four World Cup slalom races in three winters and owns four U.S. slalom titles and eight U.S. junior national titles.

With the World Championships in February and the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City approaching, Koznick of Burnsville, Minn., decided to make a run for gold and glory on her own.

"I approached the ski team in the spring and said: "I'm fifth in the world and I want to be first. Is there anything you can do to individualize the coaching so I can become No. 1?' " Koznick said from Silverthorn, Colo., where she is training at nearby Loveland and Copper Mountain for the World Cup season. "Their answer to me was they like the program the way it is. They said I could stay with their program or go on my own."

When Koznick left the U.S. ski team, she took assistant coach Dan Stripp with her.

"I want a World Cup slalom title," she said. "I want a world championship gold and an Olympic gold, and I've got two years to make it happen. I know he can help me get the gold medal."

On the World Cup circuit and at the World Championships in February, Koznick will wear the U.S. team uniform because it is required. The same would hold true if she qualifies for the 2002 Olympics. She isn't happy about it.

"I love racing for the U.S. I love where I'm from and who I represent," she said. "The unfortunate thing about wearing the ski team uniform is that I'm not being funded by any of the team's sponsors. I'll be supporting sponsors who aren't supporting me."

Koznick figures it will cost her about $150,000 this winter and $150,000 to $175,000 next winter.

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