Aamodt, Koznick pick up golds | VailDaily.com

Aamodt, Koznick pick up golds

Ian Cropp
SPT Ski Classic2 PU 3-21-07

VAIL – Don’t let their skiing fool you: They really did retire.Despite their best efforts to walk away from competitive skiing, Kjetil Andre Aamodt and Kristina Koznick can’t turn off that drive to get down the pitch as fast as possible.Aamodt and Koznick won the giant slalom races Wednesday night at the American Ski Classic on Vail’s Golden Peak.”I have only skied three days this winter, but it’s in the blood,” said Aamodt, who retired about two months ago. “It comes naturally when you’ve been on the (World Cup) circuit for 18 years.” In the head-to-head finals, Norway’s Aamodt edged out American Phil Mahre, who retired 23 years ago, but is making a comeback in hopes of qualifying for next year’s U.S. Nationals.”I didn’t think I was going to beat (Phil),” Aamodt said. “”He’s such a good skier.”Mahre, who has been racing against competitors less than half his age most winter, started out with some great runs, but came up a bit short against who has likely been his toughest opponent yet this year.”I put together three really good runs and the last one I went straight a couple times and you don’t get any edge or angle, and you dump you speed,” Mahre said. “But (Kjetil) is a great one. It’s always fun when you come against someone who puts you to the test.”

Speed skiing champion Franz Weber took third, beating Hannes Trinkl.Freeskier without pointsAfter officially hanging up the skis from competitive racing last year, Koznick had a brief stint as a NorAm racer this year, but she wasn’t out there for the wins.”I went back into races to give my (racing) points away,” Koznick said. “The only way for younger kids to get better is to race with people that have better points.”Then, it was time for Koznick to enjoy an aspect of skiing she couldn’t even remember doing.”I’ve just been freeskiing,” Koznick said. “At the beginning of the year, I didn’t want to ski much, and now this spring I’ve been having so much fun freeskiing. It’s new for me.”Koznick, who lives in Edwards with her husband Dan Stripp, hasn’t been spying the Golden Peak pitch much, however, as she spends more time skiing at Beaver Creek. And Koznick didn’t get much of a chance to gear up for Wednesday’s race, as she was recently in Lenzerheider, Switzerland for the World Cup Finals as a TV announcer.

Still, Koznick came out ripping Wednesday, and got some ribbing from the other competitors.”Everyone was giving me a hard time because I’m the rookie, saying, ‘Come on now, take it easy,'” Koznick said.In the finals, Koznick beat Sweden’s Ylva Nowen, who crashed up high on the course.”I thought, ‘Don’t turn around and look,'” said Koznick, who has never raced side-by-side. “It’s a little bizarre to have someone behind you – you don’t know what to do. But it’s great for the fans.”Ceteris ParibusVail has been good to Australia’s Zali Steggall. In 1999, Steggall won the slalom at the World Championships. Wednesday, Steggall picked up another piece of hardware from Vail with her third-place finish in the giant slalom.This time around, Steggall wasn’t as well prepared, but she still skied in fine form.

“I flew in (Tuesday) from Australia, and we’ve had six months of summer, so I literally put my skis on today for the first time in eight months,” Steggall said. “It’s amazing – with every run you do, it comes back. For the amount of skiing I do these days, this is good.”Steggall, who retired five years ago, has kept busy while away from the slopes – she just finished up her law degree and has two kids.”I haven’t had that much time skiing,” Steggall said. “I had a lot of goals when I retired. I think when you retire from sport, it’s really good to have plans and know what you are doing.”What got Steggall back on the hill was her 3-year-old son.”He really loved it, and he was good,” Steggall said. “That was the most skiing I’ve done in five years.”While Steggall may have taken it easy with her son, she went all out Wednesday.”You have to be realistic about your ability,” Steggall said. “It’s one thing to mentally want to push it, but it’s another thing if the body’s going to follow.”Norway’s Toril Forland was fourth.

Mahre to come?After jumping back into competitive racing last spring, Mahre has been racing on and off this winter.”(I’m) starting to put things together,” Mahre said. “Consistency is the whole deal.”Unlike when he first entered the pro ranks, Mahre has a few more responsibilities and a lot less time now.”I haven’t had the time to train that I’ve needed,” Mahre said. “That, and you have to make a living. If you get paid, you can do this every day. If you could train five of seven days, you’d get that much better that much quicker. I’d like to get some sponsors so I could do this for a full year and just really work on things and give it a real go next year and see where it ends up.”Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or icropp@vaildaily.com.

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