AJ Kitt has lost a World Cup downhill race to a shovel. And he
has lost to a cold front. But when he lost to a fax machine, it
This is how much sense skiing makes right now: On March 5, Kitt
won a World Cup downhill in Aspen, Colo., then had it taken away
three days later -- in Norway.
So what else is new? Of his four lifetime World Cup downhill wins,
three have been overturned. To give you an idea, Franz Klammer won
25 World Cup downhills and it only happened to him once. Kitt is
either stuck in his own Groundhog Day, or something stinks here.
Three years ago Kitt was ahead at Val d'Isere, France, until a
storm came up and officials canceled the race after the first 22
skiers had made their runs. Two years ago, on a blue-sky day in
Aspen, Kitt led a race by .83 of a second, which in the downhill
is like winning the Iditarod when the next sled's dogs haven't
even been born yet. But midway through the Aspen competition, a
rut developed near a gate. An Austrian skier hurt his knee when
his ski caught in the rut, which caused some European race
officials to begin digging at the rut with a shovel and muttering
something nobody could understand but that was believed to be,
``You want rut? We'll give you rut!'' It was decided that the new,
improved rut was big enough to cause more injuries and that the
race should not count, which is sort of like canceling the Super
Bowl in the fourth quarter because the backup punter slipped on a
Poor AJ. His career caught an edge after that, and only recently
has he shown signs of coming out of his slump -- like three weeks
ago at Aspen, where he led the race by .58 of a second, which is
like leading by the length of a Ken Burns documentary. True, a
snowstorm came up after only 31 of 68 skiers had finished, forcing
the race to be stopped, and, true, it was hard for the competitors
to see. But since the best skiers go first in the downhill, those
31 were arguably the best 31 in the world. In fact, it's rare when
anybody outside the top-15 seeds wins. The last few skiers who
came down were finishing three and four seconds behind Kitt. So
the on-site jury, consisting of four Alpine ski officials (two
European, one U.S. and one Canadian), ruled unanimously that the
race was official. Kitt had won. Lucy had finally held the ball
long enough for Charlie Brown to kick it.
At the postrace press conference, Kitt, of Boulder, Colo., teared
up in front of his parents and his wife. They knew what he had
been through. When he accepted the trophy, he held it tight.
But then, on March 8, after his warmup run for the downhill in
Kvitfjell, Norway, he saw that sick look on everyone's face again.
``It's kind of like when somebody pukes in a room,'' Kitt says.
``Nobody has to tell you.''
The International Skiing Federation (FIS), a 17-member board of
carbon-dated fossils based almost entirely in Europe, each of
them voting by fax, overturned the Aspen jury's decision. Uh, Mr.
Nicklaus, you know how you won the Masters on Sunday? Well, the
boys in Gdansk have decided you didn't. Where are you hiding the
Kitt was so dizzy with rage that he talked of retiring. Aspen
Skiing Co. was so disgusted it talked of pulling its mountain out
of World Cup racing altogether. And Tom Anderson, the chief of
race in Aspen that day, called the FIS ``a corrupt, ego-driven
All of which raises some questions.
1) Why have a jury at the race if a bunch of guys in ascots are
going to decide the outcome anyway?
2) For that matter, why not take the doddering fossils to the top
of the Hahnenkamm downhill, put them in an old refrigerator and
push them down the run at 75 mph, and then let guys like Kitt
decide whether the fossils should have to redo it again next week
3) Since about half the members of the FIS voting panel are Nordic
(cross-country and jumping), not Alpine, skiing officials, why
are they allowed to vote on an event 7,000 miles away that they
did not see and know little about? Does the plumbers' union get
to vote for Best Actress?
4) Why stop at changing results that are just three days old?
Let's see. Billy Kidd, we're taking away that medal you won at
Innsbruck in 1964. And somebody call Ingemar Stenmark and get all
those sweaters back. Oh, we've given it some thought, and we've
decided Germany won World War II.
What will erase Kitt's next win? Sasquatch wandering onto the
course? A crabmeat replica of the Beatles dropping from a
dirigible? A vote of the members of the All-England Lawn Tennis
Kitt has tried to keep his sanity through all of this. In fact, he
went out in the last downhill of the year, on March 15 at Bormio,
Italy, and finished second. Kitt did not retire and did not turn
his hotel room into kindling. ``I'm not here for politics,'' he
says, ``I'm just here to ski fast.'' Like that matters.