Koznick retires from U.S. Ski Team | VailDaily.com

Koznick retires from U.S. Ski Team

Daily Staff Report
** FILE ** Kristina Koznick smiles in the finish area of the women's ski World Cup giant slalom race, on in this Oct. 23, 2004 file photo, in Soelden, Austria. Koznick, who overcame a devastating knee injury to make it down the Olympic slalom course in Italy earlier this year, retired Wednesday, July 12, 2006 after three Olympics and more than a decade of world-class racing. (AP Photo/Rudi Blaha)

EAGAN, Minn. ” Three-time Olympian and six-time World Cup slalom winner Kristina Koznick has announced her retirement after more than a decade of World Cup ski racing.

Koznick had said last December that the 2006 season would be her last, but after the pre-Olympic injury sustained in training Feb. 4 in Ofterschwang, Germany, there had been some speculation she might try to return for the ’07 season. Then came yet another knee injury ” a partial tear in her right knee ” which limited her to one run of slalom at the Torino Winter Games.

Next stop ” Vail

She rehabbed daily through the spring and early summer, preparing possibly to return to World Cup racing. But, in the end, as she and longtime personal coach Dan Stripp planned their wedding in September, Koznick reflected on her goals and career and decided she would retire.

Koznick and Stripp will be moving to Vail, where Stripp will start a new job next month as a juniors coach for Ski and Snowboard Club Vail, according to a statement on the U.S. Ski Team Web site. Their small wedding will take place in Las Vegas at the home of Koznick’s father, Jeff.

“It was a really hard decision,” she said from her home in suburban Minneapolis. “Truthfully, I could ski race until I’m 50; I love the racing part. But on the inside, every time I go home, or stop and have a moment to myself, something tells me, ‘Maybe it’s time to move on.’

“Life’s too short. I can’t hold onto something because I didn’t achieve all my goals. It doesn’t mean I was going to achieve them just because I hung around.”

Quite a career

Koznick, 30, ends her career as one of the most successful American female ski racers of all time” third in number of victories behind Tamara McKinney (18 wins) and Picabo Street (nine), and tied with Cindy Nelson, another Minnesota Olympian and ski racing icon, at six. In addition to her six World Cup wins, Koznick had 14 other top-three finishes and a total of 54 top 10s during her 14 years on the circuit.

She also won five U.S. slalom championships, featuring a streak of four straight from 1995-98, and eight national junior titles.

“Kristina had some incredible results in slalom,” said U.S. alpine director Jesse Hunt. “Twice she finished the season ranked second in the World Cup slalom standings and top 10 in the overall standings [’98, ’02]. She really put us on the map in slalom in recent years, which was a major contribution for us.”

Koznick’s contributions included consistent performances at the international level, where she competed on six U.S. World Championships teams and was the top U.S. female World Cup slalom points earner for 11 seasons – from 1995-2005.

Seeing from a distance

Koznick was aware of her standing as the preeminent U.S. slalom skier during the last decade, she said, and one career goal was to overtake McKinney, the 1989 World Championships combined gold medalist who also won slalom bronze at three Worlds and nine World Cup slaloms.

However, in her trademark low-key style, she conceded, “I see a little more about what I didn’t achieve, and maybe as time goes on, I’ll see what I did achieve. I mean, I know I was the top U.S. slalom skier over 10 years, so that says a lot about my career, but it hasn’t sunk in … yet.

“Any athlete wants to be better, and to do better, and I’m still in that frame of mind. I haven’t gotten to the point of reflecting. Maybe after a year and I can see from a distance.”

She hopes to stay involved in skiing at some level ” possibly coaching, TV commentary or writing, among other options.

Koznick, who came out of Erich Sailer’s gate-running program at Buck Hill in the Twin Cities, made her debut as a 15-year-old at the 1991 World Cup Finals at Waterville Valley, N.H.

She first competed in the J2 Junior Olympics at New Hampshire’s Sunapee Ski Area then headed to the J1 JOs in Lake Placid, N.Y. ” with a brief detour to the make her World Cup entrance, finishing a split-second out of the top 30 in the first run of a slalom. Two years later she was on the U.S. Ski Team for the ’03 season. A torn ligament in her left knee erased her 1994 season, eliminating the chance to compete in the Lillehammer Olympics.

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