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SKIING / CHRIS DUFRESNE : A Look at the Faces Who Shaped Season

April 07, 1993|CHRIS DUFRESNE

It was pretty much dullsville on the World Cup circuit this season except that the best female skier in the world retired at age 23, tragedy struck one of America's great skiing families and a world champion was not crowned in super-giant slalom.

Also, an American skier won a downhill race, then lost it, igniting a near revolt among skiers against their governing body, the International Ski Federation (FIS), resulting in talk about the formation of a new professional tour.

There were also the usual half-dozen or so episodes involving Italy's Alberto Tomba, some having to do with skiing.

With less than a year to go before the 1994 Olympic Games at Lillehammer, Norway, here's a quick review of the faces who, for better or worse, shaped the 1992-93 season in Alpine skiing:

Attila the Hun award . . . Karl Frehsner.

One of the least respected men on the World Cup circuit, Frehsner is the powerful FIS official who canceled the Aspen Downhill in February, depriving American AJ Kitt his second career World Cup victory. Frehsner moved to cancel the race after a rut developed on the course after 16 runs. Yet, it was Frehsner and race designer Sepp Messner who caused the rut by adding an extra gate on the course.

Frehsner's absolute powers led a near-revolt among international skiers, who are demanding more control of their sport. Stay tuned.

Grace under adversity . . . Julie Parisien.

Her life was rocked before Christmas when older brother Jean Paul was killed in an automobile accident. Less than two months later, Parisien won a silver medal in slalom at the World Championships in Japan. Afterward, she complained that her brother would have expected more.

Parisien, from Auburn, Me., entered the season as the world's top-ranked slalom skier. She did not hold on to that ranking, but is even more determined as the Olympic season approaches.

Catch a rising star . . . Kjetil Andre Aamodt.

This was the season the 21-year-old Norwegian supplanted Tomba as the world's best technical skier.

Aamodt finished with four consecutive World Cup wins and gave Marc Girardelli a serious run for the overall title. He won individual World Cup titles in super-G and giant slalom and two gold medals and a silver at the World Championships.

Aamodt is threatening to make the 1994 Olympics his private playground.

What's-a-the-matter-here . . . Alberto Tomba.

The great Italian, "La Bomba," was only very good this year. Although he skied well, finishing second overall in slalom and GS, Tomba won only one race.

The three-time Olympic gold medal winner did capture the title for most lift operators assaulted. On his way up to survey a course in Veyzonnaz, Switzerland, Tomba struck a resort employee in the back with his ski poles, accusing him of opening the cabin door too slowly from the outside.

Tomba also extended his winless streak at the World Championships. This year, he was stricken with flu the week of his races and was not a factor.

Tomba still finished fifth in the overall standings, despite the fact that his mother wouldn't let him ski in the speed events.

If it weren't for bad luck . . . AJ Kitt.

America's top downhill skier had a season to forget. In November, he sprained his ankle playing basketball. In December, he was leading a downhill at Val d'Isere, France, that was ultimately canceled because of poor weather.

In February, he was leading the Aspen Downhill before it was canceled because of a rut in the course.

In March, he looked forward to finishing strong at the World Cup downhill finals. You guessed it. The race was canceled.

Kitt did prove again that he can compete with the best downhillers in the world and remains a viable medal threat at Lillehammer.

Skier most likely to race in her underwear . . . Picabo Street.

She was a breath of fresh air on the circuit, although sometimes a pain in the you-know-what to her coaches. Street, a free spirit from Sun Valley, Ida., focused her attention long enough to win a silver medal in combined at the World Championships.

The 21-year-old finished the season with a second place in a downhill race on the Olympic course at Hafjell, her first top-three finish in a World Cup event.

On the verge of being kicked off the U.S. team at one point, Street was an unexpected surprise.

Thanks for the memories . . . Petra Kronberger.

Having done it all before the age of 23, the great Austrian called it quits early in the season. Kronberger had won the World Cup overall championship the past three years. She won 16 World Cup races after joining the tour in 1988 and captured two gold medals during the 1992 Olympics at Albertville.

The bad news is that the sport has lost the greatest women skier since AnneMarie Moser-Proell. The good news is that she stepped aside to allow another Austrian, Anita Wachter, to win an overall title.

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