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WORLD CUP SKIING : Moe Sidelined, so Kitt Tries to Rewrite Ending

March 04, 1995|CHRIS DUFRESNE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ASPEN, Colo. — Once America's best hope for Olympic gold, AJ Kitt ran off and married a beauty queen (Miss Canada) and skied happily and slowly ever after.

Into this wake, Tommy Moe rushed in and became king of the mountain.

Kitt got the girl; Moe went to Lillehammer and took the gold.

It was a nice story.

Kitt, however, seems intent on a rewrite.

As fast as he fell from grace, Kitt has resurfaced, emerging from a two-year fog to become a legitimate contender for today's Aspen Roch Cup Downhill, America's premier ski race and World Cup stop.

How did this happen? Well, first, Moe had to step aside.

Last week, in a super-giant slalom at Whistler, Canada, Moe injured ribs and cut his face in a crash, taking him out of today's downhill and Sunday's super-G.

In the race in which Moe was injured, Kitt turned in the best super-G race of his life, finishing second after starting from the 54th start position.

"This was an incredibly important result for me," Kitt said.

With the long shadow of Moe out of the way, if only temporarily, Kitt takes center stage at Aspen with newfound confidence, which is half the game in skiing.

Kitt proved it by winning Thursday's downhill training run. Wednesday's and Friday's runs were canceled because of heavy snowfall and race organizers worked all day Friday to clean up a course buried under a foot and a half of snow. The forecast was for more snow, which could postpone or cancel today's race.

Still, Thursday's effort by Kitt was a reminder of what once was.

"AJ was our star for a number of years," said Bill Egan, the U.S. downhill coach.

All that changed in Norway last year when Moe stormed the course at Kvitfjell and became the second U.S. downhill skier to win an Olympic gold.

Kitt finished 17th that day. With Moe wrapped in the American flag, no one was interested in rehashing the merits of Kitt's career accomplishments. It is still Moe, not Kitt, who seeks his first World Cup downhill victory.

Kitt won the circuit event at Val d'Isere, France, in 1992, and has four top-three downhill finishes.

He probably was more affected by two races he didn't win in 1993. Kitt, from Rochester, N.Y., was leading at Val d'Isere again in a race that was canceled because of bad weather.

This week, he returns to the scene of another eventful race. Two years ago, Kitt was leading the Aspen downhill after 16 racers when officials inexplicably called the event because of a rut on the course.

Outraged, Aspen officials awarded Kitt the Roch trophy anyway, although he was not credited with a World Cup victory.

*

Skiing Notes

Others expected to contend should today's race be run include Kyle Rasmussen; France's Luc Alphand, the World Cup downhill leader; Canada's Cary Mullen, the defending champion, and Austria's Patrick Ortlieb, 1992 Olympic gold medalist.

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