Nagano 1998 Olympics
Athlete profile: AJ Kitt
Posted: Tue February 3, 1998, CNN/SI
In skiing circles, it's often said Tommy Moe got the gold medal and Kitt got the girl...the first of the American downhillers to break through, Kitt is nearing 30 years old and has been struggling for consistency since a knee injury two years ago...when he looks back as his career, Kitt says, "The first five, six years were really fun and easy, I was learning rapidly. Once I established myself, bad luck started, but I've dealt with it"...on three occasions, he was leading a World Cup race only to have it cancelled due to weather...after winning the bronze medal at the 1993 World Championships, Kitt was overshadowed by Moe in Lillehammer when he placed 17th...but after the Olympics he married a former Miss Canada named Nancy, whom he had met on a Mexican vacation...during the winter their phone bills reach some incredible amount, which Kitt says, "I don't even want to tell you"...Kitt's other companion, his dog Speed, died last year..."Alpine Jet" Kitt is heading toward his fourth Olympics...his three previous Olympics did not turn out as he had planned...in 1988 Calgary Olympics, the 19-year-old lacked the experience, saying he did not know what he was doing "right or wrong"...in 1992, Kitt went into the Albertville Olympics as the America's Alpine hope -- appearing on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Olympics Preview -- and although he had a stellar World Cup season, Kitt finished ninth in the downhill competition in Val d'Isere... but Kitt still feels there's speed in his future and put a huge emphasis on a good start this season, saying, "I'd really like to have a couple great races before February to boost my confidence up. Anyone can win the downhill right now, so I would love to have some mental edge"...even Kitt who was sometimes called "Arrogant Jerk" for his occasional cockiness can use a boost as he has been slowed by injuries...after posting two second-place finishes in the 1995 season, Kitt lost almost all of the 1996 season when he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during a training run for the second race of the season...then on the way to recovery, Kitt had an motocross accident, breaking his collarbone...since that ACL injury, Kitt has not gone faster than eighth place in a World Cup race (as of December 31)...Kitt has contemplated retirement -- while most of the other Americans returned home over New Year's for the Gold Cup in Lake Placid, Kitt remained in Europe struggling to middling results as the lone American on the World Cup..."The Gold Cup is contrary to [US Skiing President] Bill Marolt's philosophy of fielding the best teams at the Olympics," Kitt said. "Marolt's Olymnpic qualification criteria are almost completely based on World Cup results, and Lake Placid is totally contrary to that. There are six or seven men who regularly compete on the World Cup circuit in downhill. But they get to Lake Placid, and now you have 20 athletes, most of whom never even have seen a World Cup downhill. Because the Lake Placid downhill course is less than World Cup caliber, you could have an undeserving racer take away a spot from someone who belongs on the Olympic team"...weather caused havoc in Lake Placid so one member of the downhill team was not chosen there...Kitt still has the confidence of the US men's head coach Bill Egan..."I think ‘determined' is the key word," says Egan. "When AJ decides what he has to do, he has an incredible ability to blow-out every other distraction and focus on his skiing"...Kitt skis the way his father Ross once told him to; "You've got fast feet, but there are a million people out there with fast feet. The ones who win races are the ones with fast brains"..."[Kitt] has an uncanny ability to learn while he's training," Egan said. "He learns every turn he takes"...Kitt loves to ski, no matter what the season...once the snow melts, his skiing turns aquatic...he puts away the long downhill skis and pulls out a slalom water ski and heads for the water...Kitt has a 21-foot powerboat and puts it to work at a private lake near Boulder, Colorado...besides water skiing, Kitt enjoys playing softball with Nancy in a coed league during the summer...Kitt's full name is "Alva Ross Kitt IV"...his father had already claimed "Ross," and "Alva" was not particularly favored by his parents...Kitt liked the sound of "AJ" and that became his nickname (and no period in between the A and the J)...