Skier Kostelic Plans Return to Race Course
Sun Dec 14, 7:46 PM ET Add Sports - Reuters to My Yahoo!
By Patrick Lang
MADONNA DI CAMPIGLIO, Italy (Reuters) - Croatia's triple Olympic champion Janica Kostelic will return to a race course on Tuesday but only as a forerunner in a slalom.
"Janica has been skiing and training for the past week along her brother Ivica and she seems in good health," said Vedran Pavlek, Croatia's Alpine skiing team manager.
The 21-year-old Kostelic, who has not competed this season after a health scare in November, will ski before the first of two women's slaloms scheduled at the Madonna di Campiglio resort on Tuesday and Wednesday.
"She is happy to be back on snow and we thought it would be a good idea to let her return on the tour to boost her momentum.
"But, for the moment, we don't have any precise date for her real comeback in a race. It could take place anytime, eventually in Lienz after Christmas as we said two months ago.
"Nothing has been decided," he added.
Kostelic, who has had four operations on her right knee in 2003, suffered from thyroid problems last year and had a rapid heart beat after she began training in Zermatt, Switzerland.
In November, the Croatian Ski Federation's former doctor Zelko Sucur told local media she had a serious illness and had to rest for several months to overcome her problems.
Sucur, who also said she should not endure any physical strain that could endanger her health, has not commented on her decision to resume skiing.
Kostelic has been resting at home while her colleagues have competed in North America. She has undergone clinical tests and her condition improved enough in November to allow her to get back on her skis earlier this month.
Last week, three pairs of racing skis were brought to Hinterdux where the Kostelic family was training for Sunday's men's World Cup giant slalom in Alta Badia, Italy.
"She looks fine and very happy, she was really pleased to move again on snow," said Ivica after his second run on Sunday. "Skiing is her passion and it's tough for her to stay away from snow."
While Ivica was preparing for his first run, Kostelic trained for several hours above the 'Gran Risa' course next to other teams including Sweden's women.
After the men's event, she moved with Ivica and her father Ante to Madonna di Campiglio.
Asked about her condition, she said: "I feel fine and it's good to be back on snow."
A double World Cup champion in 2001 and 2003, Kostelic has had a stellar career since her debuts on the World Cup circuit in January 1998, winning 19 World Cup events.
Last winter she won two golds at the world championships in St Moritz and six World Cup races.
But Kostelic, who also won three golds and a silver at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, has been plagued by injuries since a downhill training crash in St Moritz.