VAL D'ISERE, France — A.J. Kitt had his sights set high, but they turned out to be a little low.
Kitt, 23, from Rochester, N.Y., became the first American in seven years to win a men's World Cup race, taking the first downhill of the season Saturday.
He covered the 2.1-mile course in 1 minute 55.69 seconds. The Olympic downhill will be held on a nearby course in February.
"I was hoping to ski in the top three with a perfect run," Kitt said. "I must say that I hit everything in the best possible way.
"I think it's good for the whole team--men and women. We know it's possible now, and there's definitely more to come down the road."
Kitt's victory was the first for the U.S. men since Bill Johnson won the last downhill race of 1984. Johnson won the 1984 Olympic downhill and three others.
Leonhard Stock of Austria, the 1980 Olympic gold medalist in the downhill, was second in 1:56.18. World downhill champion Franz Heinzer of Switzerland was third in 1:56.21.
Heinzer posted a fast early time and it held up until Stock came down 12th. Kitt followed Stock down the mountain. "Thirteen is my lucky number," Kitt said.
He trailed Stock at the intermediate clocking, 1:23.09 to 1:23.12, but made up more than half a second in the stretch to win.
"It's a great feeling to beat such great skiers as Stock and Heinzer, who always had good results here," Kitt said. "I have known since the end of last season after I finished fourth on a demanding course in Lake Louise that I was able to win a World Cup downhill."
Kitt won the U.S. downhill and super-G titles last season and has been racing since 1988 on the World Cup circuit. He was 26th in the 1988 Olympic downhill as a 19-year-old.
Kitt gained 100 points and jumped to seventh in the standings. He earned $15,000 for the victory. The organizers and the International Skiing Federation came up with $25,000 in prize money after the downhill skiers threatened to boycott if money was not given.
"The Olympics are still far away," Kitt said. "I hope to be in good shape in February."