AJKitt, skiing on the course where he scored a surprise World Cup victory four years ago almost to the day, severely injured his left knee Friday and probably will be lost to the U.S. ski team for the rest of the winter.
The accident was the latest in a series of misfortunes that have beset Kitt since he became the first American to win a men's World Cup race in nearly eight years when he beat an elite international field at Val d'Isere, France, on Dec. 7, 1991. He then finished a disappointing ninth in the 1992 Olympic downhill and later had seeming victories taken away on three occasions by changing weather conditions or political maneuvering.
On Friday, while training for today's World Cup downhill on Val d'Isere's Oreiller-Killy track, Kitt fell and apparently tore an anterior cruciate ligament. He will fly today to Vail, Colo., where Dr. Richard Steadman is expected to perform surgery on Sunday.
Tomas Karlsson, U.S. men's Alpine coach, told the Associated Press, "At the tunnel jump, he got caught in the air, just flew and landed on his tail. He felt the knee go right away when he landed.
"It's gone. Usually that's what happens when you fall. Sometimes you get lucky if it's just damaged, but the doctor thinks it's a tear."
Tommy Moe, the 1994 Olympic downhill gold medalist and super-G silver medalist, suffered a similar injury last March and is slowly regaining his form. He finished 32nd in this season's first downhill on Dec. 1 at Vail, where Kitt tied for 20th place as the leading American.
"The doctors and coaches figure Tommy probably won't be completely recovered until January," said Deborah Engen, a spokeswoman for U.S. Skiing in Park City, Utah. "With AJ, it's too early to tell. But we think he'll come back and race again."
Kitt, 27, threatened to retire last spring after he had apparently won a World Cup downhill at Aspen, Colo., only to have the race voided by officials of the International Ski Federation for the second time in three years there.
"I've learned two very important things the last few days," he said at the time. "The people that surround me in ski racing are not involved for the same reasons I am, and the corruption of this sport is not only political, but moral as well."
He mellowed out somewhat during the summer, however, and returned as a member of what is potentially the world's best downhill squad.
Richard Watkins, medical coordinator of U.S. Skiing, who is traveling in Europe with the team, said, "About three-quarters of our kids have to come back from [this type of injury]. It's real prevalent. The best treatment is surgical and to reconstruct the ligament. They typically return to skiing after the fifth month and start competing in the ninth.
"But there is a lot of psychological healing too. It depends on the individual."