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(E) Golden Kostelic Makes History
By Nenad N. Bach | Published  02/24/2002 | Sports | Unrated
(E) Golden Kostelic Makes History
      Golden Kostelic Makes History 
      Fri Feb 22, 7:13 PM ET 
      By Alan Baldwin 
      PARK CITY, Utah (Reuters) - Croatia's Janica Kostelic hurtled into history 
      Friday, taking giant slalom gold to become the first Alpine skier to win 
      four Olympic medals at a single Games. 
      The 20-year-old was the first woman to win three Alpine golds at one Games 
      and joined France's Jean-Claude Killy (1968) and Austrian Toni Sailer 
      (1956) as the only skiers ever to do it. 
      Her margin of victory was enormous for a woman who had never before been 
      on a giant slalom podium -- 1.32 seconds ahead of Sweden's Anja Paerson 
      and 1.66 clear of Swiss world champion and bronze medallist Sonja Nef. 
      Her success was all the more extraordinary considering that she comes from 
      a country that had never before won an Olympic medal but that has now won 
      more golds than skiing powerhouse Austria at these Games. 
      "She's proved that mentally she's the strongest ever," said Paerson of her 
      friend and rival. "She's incredible. She can really ski with the pressure 
      on and right now she's the one we have to beat. 
      "I'm so happy for her because she had a rough season with her injuries...I 
      can only congratulate her." 
      Kostelic, the 2001 World Cup overall champion, has lingering pain in her 
      legs after repeated surgery on her knee last year but has now won a medal 
      in every race she has entered at Salt Lake City. 
      NO ENERGY 
      "I've got no energy left," she gasped, brandishing the Croatian flag in 
      the finish area. "I think I'll just go and pick up my medal and go to 
      "I did not expect four medals, I thought I would get maybe one in 
      combined," she said. "I didn't care about the record. I just take one race 
      at a time." 
      Kostelic, whose early career was a battle against adversity with scarce 
      resources and occasional nights spent sleeping in her father's car at 
      World Cup events, had seemed a long shot before Friday's start. 
      She had never before finished on the podium in giant slalom, a fourth 
      place her best. 
      She had won the combined and slalom golds and taken a silver in super-G 
      but even she thought the giant slalom likely to be one race too far. 
      Instead her opening run from a 19th start position blasted away any doubts 
      and her second was every bit as crushing on a piste set by Paerson's 
      father Anders. 
      "I came here hoping to take a medal and I've got two which is more than I 
      could ask for," said Paerson. 
      Her delight contrasted to the disappointment felt by Austrian Alexandra 
      Meissnitzer, a former world champion and silver medallist from Nagano four 
      years ago, who failed to match the pace and fell back from second to 
      Spain's Maria Jose Rienda Contreras had been third, hoping to become her 
      country's first Alpine medallist since Blanca Fernandez-Ochoa in 1992, but 
      she faded to sixth. 
      Kostelic was fastest by 0.49 after the first run and she was again fastest 
      in the second leg. 
      Paerson was second quickest to move up from fourth place and claim her 
      second medal of the Games after securing a bronze in the slalom. 
      Nef, who crashed out of Wednesday's slalom and almost fell in the first 
      leg, saved Swiss pride with the team's first Alpine medal of the Games. 
      "After the first run I knew gold would be difficult, if not impossible, 
      but I knew I still had a chance of taking a medal," said Nef. "I'm very 
      pleased with my second run." 
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