American women head to Europe for winter
ASPEN – The American women didn’t quite bring it home the same way their male counterparts did for their only U.S. stop on the World Cup circuit.While Daron Rahlves and Bode Miller dominated the podium at the recent men’s stop in Beaver Creek, the best result the women could pull off last weekend in Aspen was fifth place. East Coast-California transplant Kirsten Clark staked this claim in Friday’s super G. Otherwise, Vail affiliate Lindsey Kildow came out of the SG with a seventh place, but didn’t make the cut in Saturday’s giant slalom and crashed but finished Sunday’s slalom in 30th place. Julia Mancuso missed the points tally by placing 31st in the SG, but was the top American in GS with 12th place and was 19th in Sunday’s slalom. Vail racer Sarah Schleper, one of the America’s top technical skiers, is recovering from back surgery and sat out of the Aspen races. Her absence was noted by coaches and teammates, who said they expect her back on the race course in January. Independent Minnesota-bred racer Kristina Koznick, who will retire after this World Cup season, was the top American Sunday in 14th place.”Yeah, I kind of wish I would have done better at home,” Koznick after Sunday’s race. “I’m a little sad to have never won a World Cup in the U.S. But I still feel like there’s a lot I want to do.”Koznick is also sad to leave her Koz Fan Club, not to mention other comforts of home behind her when she heads to Europe today for the remainder of the winter. The next World Cup stop is this weekend in Val d’Isere, France.
“It’s a little more relaxing here,” she said of skiing in the states. “Everyone speaks English and things are a little easier.”Then again, as an independent racer, Koznick has to do a lot more of her own organizing of transportation, accommodation and general communication on the World Cup tour than racers on the U.S. Ski Team, many of whom said they can focus on their sport better in Europe than they can at home.”I think it’s sort of fun,” said Mancuso about spending the remainder of the winter – save four days in which she will return home to Squaw Valley, Calif., for New Year’s – in Europe. “I’ve been home for a while now and I’m looking forward to going over there and just focusing on skiing. It’s a little bit easier there (to focus on skiing). You’re not so much in demand. I’m used to life on the road. It’s sort of just what it is.”Although U.S. racers are graced with a broad cheering section when they race at home, in Europe, they are embraced as famed and significant athletes by almost the entire continent.
The Euro sport”Over there, skiing is the No. 1 sport,” said Kildow. “They respect us. They acknowledge skiing, which is the one thing that, in the states, we have a long way to go. We have a lot of other sports like football and basketball. In Europe, (ski racing) is on TV everywhere. Here, we have trouble getting air time.”Mancuso and Kildow, both of whom have been traveling on the World Cup for many years, said it’s always a little sad to leave friends and family when they depart for Europe. Kildow’s mother will visit her in San Sicario, Italy, this February for the Winter Olympics and her boyfriend will join her in Europe after Christmas.
“I have a good support system,” Kildow said. “You don’t feel like you’re missing something. You feel like, ‘OK. I’m here for my job.’ I feel like things are going well. I have a boyfriend. I’m comfortable. I don’t miss skiing at home – that’s the key part.”Mancuso said she enjoys going out to dinner in Europe -especially in Italy – and likes to explore larger cities along the tour.”It’s fun to experience other cultures,” she said. “It’s all different and it’s all exciting.”As for the American performance on home soil, the consensus was that it could definitely have been better. Racers agreed it’s unfortunate that the home-country performance was so flat, but that it’s not indicative of the rest of the season.
“I’m not worried about it,” Kildow said. “I think we have a lot of depth -especially with some of the younger girls. We definitely have the potential and the talent. It’s a matter of putting it down for the race. And we have a lot of races. Sarah will come back. It’s not that bad.”Sports Writer Shauna Farnell can be reached at 949-0555, ext.14632, or email@example.com.Vail, Colorado