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For Kitt, Downhill Has New Meaning : Skiing: He finishes 29th in a makeup race he says never should have been run in the first place.

March 20, 1993|RANDY HARVEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

KVITFJELL, Norway — Two weeks and 6,000 miles later, the darkest chapter of this winter's White Circus came to an anticlimactic conclusion Friday, when a winner finally was declared in the Aspen downhill.

It was not American AJ Kitt, a disappointment with which he has still not come to terms.

It was Frenchman Adrien Duvillard, a first-time winner on skiing's World Cup circuit who represents the third generation of racers in his family.

Although Duvillard, 23, is considered promising, his victory could hardly have been predicted. But it was an unpredictable day because of a rapid change in seasons from winter to spring that seemed to occur in mid-race.

The conditions were cold and overcast when the race began, but bright sunshine suddenly appeared a half-hour later, altering the course dramatically. As a result, the favorites, who had skied earlier, found visibility low and risk high because of the icy line down the mountain, and the others were presented with a white carpet.

Only three skiers seeded among the first 15 placed among the first 15. One was American Tommy Moe, who started third and finished 14th.

"It was like two different races in one day," said Kitt, who started 15th and finished 29th. "How fair is that?"

Kitt has been asking that question often during the last two weeks, ever since he was leading the Aspen downhill only to have the international ski federation (FIS) stop the race after 15 skiers had completed their runs because of a rut on the course. Kitt protested that the course could have been repaired in a matter of minutes, a position supported by many of his competitors.

But the FIS ruled that the race would be moved to Kvitfjell (White Mountain), 24 hours before today's regularly scheduled downhill on the course that will be used during next February's Winter Olympics.

"This is, in my mind, a ridiculous situation," Kitt said Friday after falling from 14th to 18th in the World Cup downhill standings. He needs a good result today to regain a position among the top 15 and qualify for next weekend's final. So does Moe, who stands 17th.

"I had my best effort of the year at Aspen, but others didn't," Kitt said. "Now, they've been given another chance. That's not the way sports are run. You go out and do it and do it once. You don't get two swings in golf to make your best shot."

Duvillard's best finish had been eighth at St. Anton, Austria. With his victory, he advanced from 25th to 10th in the downhill standings.

Duvillard has to win a few more times to catch his uncle, Henri, who won six downhill races between 1969 and 1973 and was fourth in the slalom in the 1972 Winter Olympics at Sapporo, Japan.

Twelve years earlier, Duvillard's father, Adrien, was among the favorites in the downhill in the Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley, Calif. Before the race, his coach, the famed Emil Allais, devised a signal for his skier. Allais said he would be sitting on the course if Duvillard was behind at the interval and standing if he was ahead.

When Duvillard passed the checkpoint, he had such a large lead that the excited Allais was jumping up and down. Confused, Duvillard lost his bearings and fell.

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