Kristina Koznick's hair is currently in rehab. Her natural sandy-brown coloring is making a comeback after a brief stint as badass Billy Idol shock-treatment white. "I wanted to do something to give people a reason to go 'oh, my gosh,'" says Koznick.
Koznick has been America's top slalom racer for three years, ranking as high as second in the world. While she's had trouble this season adjusting to the supershort shaped slalom skis, she still ranks in the top 20. And in her first full year as a World Cup giant slalom racer, she's jumped more than 30 spots in the rankings.
But hardly anybody in America has noticed, and that bugs her. "It irks me sometimes that I don't draw any attention," she says. Hence the attention-getting hair. But really, it's not her style. She's a levelheaded, disciplined person-an admitted perfectionist competing in ski racing's most precise event. To Koz, it is beautiful music to hear the rhythmic snap of slalom gates hitting the snow on a perfect run. "It's a sound that slalom skiers live for," she says.
Early in her World Cup career, the music was mute. Plagued by a bad back, she managed to crack the top 10 in a race just once. But a breakthrough in November '97-a fourth in a Park City slalom-turned into pure epiphany. "The second I didn't see myself as being any different from the world's best racers, I could see so much more clearly," she says.
Results rolled in-eight top-four finishes that season including her first World Cup win. But what caught America's attention was her one failure, her disappointing DNF in the '98 Nagano Games. "It was my first Olympics and I was scared shitless," she admits.
Pounding through slalom gates can be brutal. "I'll be sitting on a plane in a T-shirt with bruises on my arms, and people will look at me funny," she says. Someday soon, she hopes, her results rather than her arms or her hair will be the reason people take notice.
Born: November 24, 1975
Home Ski Hill: Buck Hill, Minnesota
Nicknames: Koz, Kozzie, K-Lyn, Kotzi
Weird Factoid: She has a pierced navel. "But I don't want to pierce my face or have tattoos all over me," says Koznick.