Jackson Hole, WY Mar. 30--A confident Caroline Lalive (SteamboatSprings, CO) ignored potential pressures Wednesday and held off KristinaKoznick (Burnsville, MN), who closed her World Cup season withback-to-back slalom victories, to collect her first two national titles.She won the women's slalom on the final day of the Chevy Truck U.S.Alpine Championships and then collected the combined gold medal, too.
NBC will broadcast coverage of the race April 13. Check local listingfor time. The race was a return to action for the women, who lost theirgiant slalom race Tuesday because of softening snow conditions. Therewere no problems with the SL.
Lalive, who finished second in a World Cup combined this season andagain scored points in all five events, led the first run by ahalf-second. Koznick laid down a solid second run to lead the rest ofthe field by 2.58 seconds - but she couldn't hold off Lalive.
"It feels great. Gosh. I feel like I've been in this place gold medalcontention for a couple of years and never really been able tocapitalize on it - and, finally, it happened," the winner said. "I'mreally excited."
Lalive: "I was able to....ski like I know how"
On her first run, starting two places after Koznick took a second-pluslead, Lalive attacked the Snow King run. "I tried not to think all thatmuch and just be relaxed and ski aggressive. The second run," sheexplained, there was a little more pressure and a little bit moretension, and I was able to just relax and ski like I know how.
"I think on the top pitch I was a little bit hesitant, and then I said,"C'mon - you've got to go." It was awesome! Standing at the top, i waspraying and trying to get relaxed. I'm just so happy."
Between runs, she said, Lalive - gold medalist in combined at the 1999World Junior Championships - "just tried to stay relaxed. I knew that,in some ways, 'Koz' had an advantage, just as far as the mental gamebecause she's been in a winning position before and I haven't been herevery often. But I just concentrated on what I know and how I like torelax myself. You know, just not get too worried about it. That's aboutit - simplicity."
Despite her successes, Koznick said she had trouble focusing on herracing in the last three weeks. "That was not me Wednesday. I couldn'teven see two gates ahead. Unfortunately, I'm not here. It's been areally tough three weeks. It sounds funny because I've had greatresults...but I just couldn't keep it together this last face."
Koznick survives near-fall
On her first run, Koznick said, thought she was going to fall "and Iwas, like, 'Okay, I've got to stay in and I've got to finish. It'simportant.' The focus just wasn't there in the first run or the secondrun. I mean, I'm determined to win. I'm coming here to prove that I'mthe best in the country. There's no doubt about that, but halfway down -when I'm thinking so much and trying to focus, that just doesn't work.It needs to be there from the heart and that wasn't there today."
Koznick said she would undergo surgery on her left shoulder April 6 atthe Steadman-Hawkins Clinic in Vail, Colo., to repair an injury shesuffered last fall while hiking during dryland training at Austria'sPitztal Glacier. Coincidentally, Lalive said she was going to have herleft ankle drained to relieve pressure from "a leak" that fills theankle with fluid.
At the end, U.S. Ski Team VP-Athletics Alan Ashley echoed coaches andathletes, who called it "one of our best nationals. There were a lot ofgood competitions and we finished with two super slalom races. It wasreally just super skiing by the top athletes. Standing in the finisharea, it was terrific listening to coaches talk about how good thesechampionships were and having athletes appreciate the effort the coursecrews put in every day."