Lienz, Austria Dec. 29, 2001 (AP by Marsha Hill)--American Kristina Koznick stood on the podium listening to the Swedish national anthem and was moved by the prospect of hearing her own at the Salt Lake Olympics.
``I got tears in my eyes,'' said Koznick, who tied for second Saturday when Swede Anja Paerson won a World Cup slalom race. ``I thought about what it would be like to be up there, winning the gold medal and hearing the American national anthem and I felt a chill go right through me.''
Koznick is confident, and aims to win in the Olympics in February. But she isn't worried about the pressure of competing at home.
``When it comes to ski racing, the American public are rookies,'' she said. ``It's a young sport there, but I think after what happened to us on Sept. 11, that every American will be cheering for me.''
Koznick, who has four career World Cup victories and four seconds, is not only confident about doing well at the Olympics. She expects to challenge Paerson for the slalom World Cup title.
``I think the slalom title is going to come down to Anja and me this year,'' said the 26-year-old skier from Burnsville, Minn. ``That's great because we are good friends.''
Like most racers, Koznick, on the World Cup circuit since 1993, has had her ups and downs. It has taken her three seasons to master the new carving technique, which has revolutionized the technical disciplines and put pressure on the older racers.
``You see some of the older skiers and they are still having trouble with it,'' she said. ``Its an entirely new technique _ like making railway tracks in the snow.
``This is the first year I really feel I've got it right, and now I love it. I even want to go free skiing on my carving skis and that's never happened before.''
Paerson won despite a mistake that slowed her on the bottom half of the course.
Koznick and German Monika Bergmann tied for second, just .05 seconds behind. The Swede's combined winning time was 1 minute, 24.74 seconds.
Paerson, who shared third place in Friday's giant slalom with teammate Ylva Nowen, set a blistering pace in the first leg and went into the second with a .66 seconds advantage. But Paerson was slowed by a bad run at one of the final gates, where her right ski slipped momentarily before she regained control.
``This has been a very good weekend for me,'' Paerson said. ``It was good for my confidence.''
Paerson, who also won in Sestriere, Italy, took the lead in the slalom standings from Laure Pequegnot of France, who finished seventh.
Paerson has 200 points to 172 for Pequegnot. Koznick moved into third place with 152.
Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press