Close

Member Login

Logging In
Invalid username or password.
Incorrect Login. Please try again.

not a member? sign-up now!

Signing up could earn you gear and it helps to keep offensive content off of our site.

PRINT DIGITAL

Kristina Koznick: The Complete Interview

Fall Line
posted: 01/16/2001

Slalom ace Kristina Koznick has left the U.S. Ski Team and set out on the World Cup circuit with her coach (and boyfriend) Dan Stripp. Stripp was fired by the Ski Team last spring for spending too much time with Koznick and neglecting the other athletes, according to the team.

Koznick was interviewed by SKI editor-in-chief Andy Bigford at Loveland Valley, Colo., on Nov. 12, 2000. Since then, Koznick has recorded two World Cup podium finishes in slalom and stands sixth overall in the slalom standings. She heads into the World Alpine Championships in St. Anton, Austria, Jan. 29-Feb. 10 as a favorite to medal in the slalom.

Koznick is largely self-funding her racing, and estimates she'll need $300,000 to get through the 2002 Olympic season. She is also taking donations and selling t-shirts at her web site, koznick.com. She plans to fly a banner in Salt Lake with the names of all her donors.

Preparing for the World Cup season as a one-woman team.
AB: This preparation period has to be totally new and unique for you to have gone through without all the coaches, dryland trainers, staff people to arrange travel, etc. What has it been like and what have you learned from being a one-woman team?

KK: It's actually amazing: The preparation hasn't been that different. If anything I've had more say in where I'm going and how I feel about training and how things are going. And so really that part doesn't feel that different. When I'm on my skis, you know, everything feels the same.

AB: But just as far as schlepping things around and scheduling travel and getting hill space on the glaciers...stuff like that. How is that going?

KK: We've run into some days where getting hill space and finding training has been more challenging. But actually the one really great thing with Dan is that he's been around for a while. He knows what's going on and he knows everyone. It's a small world and between the two of us we know pretty much everyone and that really has helped quite a bit.

On The New, Short Slalom Skis
AB: You had a good solid result in the opening World Cup slalom at Sölden, Austria. Maybe you didn't do everything you wanted to do here (at the Loveland Super Series slalom, where she finished out of the top three) but how do you feel right now as far as where you're at?

KK: I feel OK. I've been testing equipment quite a bit.

AB: Have you found the holy grail? I know it's been the most incredible technological period for advancement, especially with the short, shaped slalom skis.

KK: Right now the skis that I have are just too stiff and I really just figured that out this weekend. You know, that's what Nor-Ams are about. That's what prep period is about, figuring out what's going on and that's what I'm doing. So I know that when I get things dialed in nobody will be able to beat me, I know that. But the challenge to me now is to get the ball rolling and to find equipment that's going to really get me there and get me to the place I need to be fast.

On Dan Stripp's Dismissal Last Spring
AB: Go back to the end of last season, when Dan got sent home. Through all that I know that was very difficult but you came out and won the last two World Cup slaloms. What was going through your head? You must have been angry.

KK: Last spring was just a mixture of emotions. You know the Ski Team has always supported me and has supported me for10 years. It was really difficult because over the years I felt as though I switched coaches 15 times and it was kind of "OK, I need to really be confident in myself and know I can do it no matter if I'm alone or if I've got 10 people with me." And then last spring it was frustrating because everything was miscommunication on our team and the fact is there was no communication between me and the rest of the staff. So I said "You know what, fine, I know what I'm doing and I know why I'mere." I expended all my energy in those last two races. It was bittersweet, you know, both of them were bittersweet victories because it wasn't the way it's supposed to be. It's not supposed to be when you walk off the hill you don't even see your coaches and they don't even congratulate you, you know, that's just not what this is about, it doesn't bring out the best in me.

AB: My understanding from the U.S. Ski Team is that Dan was sent home or relieved of his duties because he wasn't coaching the other athletes. What's your take on this? I know there was a lot going on and I know that's it's never just one thing, but that's what they've told me.

KK: It's interesting, the Ski Team, and you actually could ask Dan, but the Ski Team let him go or fired him because "he had a negative influence on team dynamics." And you know, I think if you honestly ask the rest of the girls, if you ask them two questions: if you ask them "were Kristina and Dan really close?" they would say "yes," without a doubt. If you said, "was Dan not coaching you?" I don't think there are any girls on the team who would say "He wasn't coaching me." It's too bad that it turned into such a whirlwind.

Striking Out On Their Own
AB: The easier thing to do for you would have been for you to suck it up and go back to the U.S. Ski Team and say "OK, I'm back in the program, I'll live with my 16th or 17th coach or whatever it is this season." But instead you chose to set up on your own. I tried to estimate that it must cost $150,000-$200,000 to go through a year as an elite athlete to pay for coaching, traveling and all the training.

KK: I actually did go back to the team at the Nationals. When people ask what happened I always say, I went to the team and said, "I'm fifth in the world and I want to be first in the world." This was at a meeting I had. You know, I said, I'm fifth and I want to be first and I said I want to change some things up. I think I need some more individualize, here are some things I want to do. I was completely willing to hire on someone who wasn't even necessarily going to be Dan. This wasn't the first choice, you know. The ski team said "No, we believe in our program. We believe in it the way it is and if you want to be a part of our program, you jump on board with no extra, nothing will be different for you than for anyone else." So, then that was, for me it was like well, I need to sit down and say, "What do I need to be successful? Where are the pros and cons of all this?" You know, one of the biggest cons about what I'm doing is because the Ski Team is making it mandatory for me to wear the uniform and it's challenging for me to get sponsors.

AB: They're all blocked...

KK: Exactly. So for me to go to a company and say, well, I would love to help you promote your company, I'd love to be a part of what's going on but I have to wear these companies when I race. So that's probably the only large con about this.

AB: And all your ski suppliers Volkl, Marker, Tecnica, Swix re-upped with you and you had total support from them?

KK: Yeah, it was great. All my sponsors, everybody involved with me including my headgear, including Sprint, who's a Ski Team sponsor also, they stuck with me and that made me feel really good. Because that was important to me, if my sponsors didn't believe in me then I'd have to sit back and say OK, I need to think this over again. I mean I spent three to four months really thinking through this and trying every avenue possible to make this thing work. This was not my first choice. Am I going to make it work? You betcha, I'll make it work.

The Olympic Quest
AB: Are you going to have to take money out of your own pocket to get you through the season?

KK: Right now I'm spending money out of my own pocket and luckily the last couple of seasons have been good and I've been smart about my money so right now it's coming out of my pocket, everything, food, lodging, hotel, rental car, all that stuff. But I have a webpage, koznick.com. I'm selling T-shirts on the web page and you know this is my way of raising money. I have an agent helping me with corporations to get them on board with me and help me out. That's my way of having this be fun for me and trying to raise money also and helping myself out was this web page. I also put an ad in, you know, like Ski Racing magazine.

I'm calling this my Olympic Quest Anyone who does support me and steps up and helps me out, I've given them the opportunity to make a slogan or put their name on a flag and I'll fly it at the 2002 Olympics. I really want to be able to say look at these people, they helped me get here.

AB: Is it possible to raise $100,000 a year? What do you think?

KK: I don't know. I've talked to some people who have done the fundraising thing and it's a new experience for me and it's really hard for me. It's really hard for me. It's hard for me to even ask anyone for money, even if it's someone I know and completely supports me and wants to help me, it's a tough thing for me to do. I think it's tough for anyone. It just doesn't come naturally. You want to do it on your own.

AB: You've done well as a ski racer, you've been smart as an investor, you won four World Cup races. So you've got some money in the bank?

KK: Yes, and hopefully that will carry me until I get the ball rolling with other money. But part of the reason that I haven't been pushing and haven't gone to individuals and asked for money is because I really want this first year on my shoulders. This is my decision. If there's one person who comes out and says, "Here, I want to give you all this money," then it's almost like the weight is, well I want to do well because of them and that's not what this is all about. I made this decision and I want the weight on my shoulders.

On Her Relationship With Dan Stripp
AB: This is a tough question. There was talk last year about you and Dan being involved romantically. You have said that you were definitely getting closer last season and during the summer you sort of took it, you know, romantically. So what's that been like and how is that relationship with your coach?

KK: I don't think it's a tough question.

I think a lot of people are afraid to ask how things are with Dan and I. And things are great. I think both of us, we became best friends in the two years we worked together with the team and this summer we kept growing closer and closer and we decided we'd date and see how it went and it's great. It's incredible. We both enjoy spending so much time together. And I think that that's also really important. A lot of people say, "Is it risky?" You know, "Oh my gosh," it puts a little more on my plate but at the same time, he knows me that much better and he knows me left and right and that's what I need right now. And I think that that's good for him too. It works, I think it really works great, I really do. It's not uncommon, especially in women's athletics. I think, especially Track and Field, it's a special bond that really in a sense can't be broken and I think it's irreplaceable.

AB: I think in 1971 Bob Beattie married Kiki Cutter (who was his slalom race) And we've had, as far as private coaching, there's been a lot of that too: Julie Parisien that didn't work for a number of reasons, Alberto Tomba had his own coach, Deborah Compagnoni had her own coach. The Canadian Olympic champion Kerinn Lee-Gardner was married to her trainer. So there is quite a bit of history.

KK: Oh yeah, definitely. There is a lot of history, not only with relationships between coaches and althletes but also, what's amazing to me right now is one of the top skiers of the Italian team, Isolde Kostner, she has a private coach. Sonja Nef, the top skier on the Swiss team, she has a private coach. And they have workedming out of my pocket, everything, food, lodging, hotel, rental car, all that stuff. But I have a webpage, koznick.com. I'm selling T-shirts on the web page and you know this is my way of raising money. I have an agent helping me with corporations to get them on board with me and help me out. That's my way of having this be fun for me and trying to raise money also and helping myself out was this web page. I also put an ad in, you know, like Ski Racing magazine.

I'm calling this my Olympic Quest Anyone who does support me and steps up and helps me out, I've given them the opportunity to make a slogan or put their name on a flag and I'll fly it at the 2002 Olympics. I really want to be able to say look at these people, they helped me get here.

AB: Is it possible to raise $100,000 a year? What do you think?

KK: I don't know. I've talked to some people who have done the fundraising thing and it's a new experience for me and it's really hard for me. It's really hard for me. It's hard for me to even ask anyone for money, even if it's someone I know and completely supports me and wants to help me, it's a tough thing for me to do. I think it's tough for anyone. It just doesn't come naturally. You want to do it on your own.

AB: You've done well as a ski racer, you've been smart as an investor, you won four World Cup races. So you've got some money in the bank?

KK: Yes, and hopefully that will carry me until I get the ball rolling with other money. But part of the reason that I haven't been pushing and haven't gone to individuals and asked for money is because I really want this first year on my shoulders. This is my decision. If there's one person who comes out and says, "Here, I want to give you all this money," then it's almost like the weight is, well I want to do well because of them and that's not what this is all about. I made this decision and I want the weight on my shoulders.

On Her Relationship With Dan Stripp
AB: This is a tough question. There was talk last year about you and Dan being involved romantically. You have said that you were definitely getting closer last season and during the summer you sort of took it, you know, romantically. So what's that been like and how is that relationship with your coach?

KK: I don't think it's a tough question.

I think a lot of people are afraid to ask how things are with Dan and I. And things are great. I think both of us, we became best friends in the two years we worked together with the team and this summer we kept growing closer and closer and we decided we'd date and see how it went and it's great. It's incredible. We both enjoy spending so much time together. And I think that that's also really important. A lot of people say, "Is it risky?" You know, "Oh my gosh," it puts a little more on my plate but at the same time, he knows me that much better and he knows me left and right and that's what I need right now. And I think that that's good for him too. It works, I think it really works great, I really do. It's not uncommon, especially in women's athletics. I think, especially Track and Field, it's a special bond that really in a sense can't be broken and I think it's irreplaceable.

AB: I think in 1971 Bob Beattie married Kiki Cutter (who was his slalom race) And we've had, as far as private coaching, there's been a lot of that too: Julie Parisien that didn't work for a number of reasons, Alberto Tomba had his own coach, Deborah Compagnoni had her own coach. The Canadian Olympic champion Kerinn Lee-Gardner was married to her trainer. So there is quite a bit of history.

KK: Oh yeah, definitely. There is a lot of history, not only with relationships between coaches and althletes but also, what's amazing to me right now is one of the top skiers of the Italian team, Isolde Kostner, she has a private coach. Sonja Nef, the top skier on the Swiss team, she has a private coach. And they have worked out deals with their federations, they have negotiated with their federations because the federation doesn't want to loose them. They're the best skiers. They say, "what can we do to facilitate that." So I think when the Europeans actually see what's going on here they just laugh, they don't understand, they don't get it.

This sport is probably one of the most challenging sports to organize. Because here you have a team, because it's difficult to fund on an individual basis, yet this is not a team sport. It's an individual sport. And I think that sometimes it gets confusing and I think that sometimes it's treated in the U.S. more like a team sport than an individual sport and I don't agree with that.

On-Hill Relations
AB: What is it that explains why it clicks between you and Dan? Is it just that he feels he's confident in you and he knows what you can do and he knows maybe where you have questions about what you're doing. How does that click as a coach/athlete relationship?

KK: Dan and I clicked in the beginning as a coach/athlete relationship.

AB: When did you first start together?

KK: Two years ago, this will be our third season. We really clicked because the first camp we didn't even speak. He was the first coach that I dealt with as an adult that, he didn't jump in and just start telling me what was going on he actually sat back and observed how I worked and how I operated before he ever even apporached me in any mannor. I noticed that, I mean I was really aware. I think after the first camp I was like, "That's weird." We didn't really talk about skiing, we just kind of would say, oh hi, how's it going. It was just a new thing for me . And thourhg the last few years he earned my respect and he also make me earn his. And that made a world of difference. I think it was a complete, it feels when we talk as a team effort. It's not him saying, "You need to do this, you need to do that," it's "I know you, tell me what you feel and I'll tell you what I see and together we can figure this out." And that's how I've always worked the best.

AB: So have you guys talked about marriage at all? Is that a little too premature?

KK: I think that's a little premature laugh. But...

AB: What are you plans beyond 2002? What, are you 26 years old?

KK: No, I'm 24!!! I'll be 25 in a week. End of November.

AB: You're young, my god. So you could ski through 2006.

KK: I'll be 30. Is it a possibility? Yeah. And actually Dan and I have spoken about, you know the goal and everything I've set out are through 2002 and I think that's realistic and at that point, reassess the situation.

AB: So set goals through 2002?

KK: Yeah, and then after that, I'll know then if I'm done or if I need to keep going.

On Her Improvement In GS
AB: You made a big leap in GS and Dan had to have been a part of that. It's so wonderful to be a two-event skier because it's horrible to be just a slalom skier especially during the World Championships or the Olympics, when you've got one event. But tell me how that went and what the breakthroughs were and what are you skiing on now for GS.

KK: Pretty much. I'm on a 188 cm ski. The thing is most of the 183s are a little short, I don't know if there's a FIS rule that it might border on, I'm not sure. I skied on a 188 slalom ski four or five years ago. But with GS, it was great. I didn't ski it three or four years ago because of my back. Then last year, before the season started, Dan approached the rest of the coaches and kind of said, "Why isn't Kristina skiing GS, what's going on?" And then the coaches came to me and said, "Would you like to start training GS?" and I said sure, that'd be great. And the coaches definitely didn't have very high expectations and that was frustrating to me because I went to them with my goals and they kind of said let's be more realistic. The only person wh

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • No HTML tags allowed

More information about formatting options

Type the characters you see in this picture. (verify using audio)
Type the characters you see in the picture above; if you can't read them, submit the form and a new image will be generated. Not case sensitive.
All submitted comments are subject to the license terms set forth in our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use
Google+