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Freestyle hopeful Erica Knell dies in car crash

Erica Knell, 17, had all the potential in the world. She was on her way to making the U.S. Ski Team as an aerial skier; she had started her freshman year at the University of Utah; and she was beautiful in body and spirit, her friends say.
But sometimes life is unfair. As Knell was heading eastbound on I-80 just outside of Park City, Utah, on Friday, she lost control of her car and died from injuries sustained in the accident. Knell was not wearing a seat belt.
“It’s a real tragedy,” says her coach Jerry Grossi, a former U.S. Freestyle Ski Team member. “Not everyone has everything, but I’d have to say that Erica had everything. She was talented and such a good person.”
Erica Knell, 17, had all the potential in the world. She was on her way to making the U.S. Ski Team as an aerial skier; she had started her freshman year at the University of Utah; and she was beautiful in body and spirit, her friends say.
But sometimes life is unfair. As Knell was heading eastbound on I-80 just outside of Park City, Utah, on Friday, she lost control of her car and died from injuries sustained in the accident. Knell was not wearing a seat belt.
“It’s a real tragedy,” says her coach Jerry Grossi, a former U.S. Freestyle Ski Team member. “Not everyone has everything, but I’d have to say that Erica had everything. She was talented and such a good person.”
Knell was a “…beautifully spirited girl, with such compassion,” adds ski team veteran Emily Cook. “She was an incredible, amazing girl and also a very talented athlete. She had a very bright future in aerials.”
Though born in Chicago, Knell grew up in Hong Kong, China, and trained with the Chinese national gymnastics team. She regularly attended training in Guangzhou and Beijing, and was a two-time Hong Kong all-around gymnastics champion.
Knell took up aerials at 13. Cook, who was injured at the time, was one of the first to coach her at the Utah Olympic Park splash pool in Park City. She mentored Knell and her best friend Sami Palmer, in her Visa Champions Creating Champions program. “We knew the first day she showed up that she was extremely talented,” Cook says, “but she didn’t know how to ski, so we had to teach her how.”
Cook remembers how Knell skied right off of the ramp onto the grass her first day, but that didn’t stop her. She laughed and just went back for more.
After taking a year off to concentrate on school (she graduated from high school in three years), Knell came back to jumping at 16. Grossi says Knell was making major progress this summer and was on track to make the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team after the December selection event.
“She was really starting to see the big picture,” he says. “Erica was one of the most talented people I’ve seen come to the sport. In that way, it’s a huge loss because we had someone with a lot of talent and an amazing future. On a personal note, she was just a really beautiful person.”

Funeral services will be held on Wed., Sept. 10, 2008, 3 p.m. at the Park City Stake Center, 2300 Monitor Drive, Park City. Friends may also visit with the family on Tuesday evening, Sept. 9, from 6 to 8 p.m. and Wednesday afternoon from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. prior to services.

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