Friday, February 22, 2002
Kostelic first woman to win four medals in Games
PARK CITY, Utah -- Janica Kostelic won her record fourth Alpine medal of the
Salt Lake City Games in Friday's giant slalom, joining Jean-Claude Killy and
Toni Sailer as the only skiers with three golds at one Olympics.
The 20-year-old Croat, who already had gold medals in the slalom and the
combined event and a silver in the super giant slalom, was not considered
among the favorites in the giant slalom.
But she blew away the rest of the field by an amazing 1.32 seconds in a race
often decided by hundredths of seconds.
Kostelic finished the two runs in 2 minutes, 30.01 seconds. Sweden's Anja
Paerson won silver in 2:31.33, adding to the bronze she won in Wednesday's
slalom. World champion Sonja Nef of Switzerland was third.
Kostelic is the only Croatian to win a Winter Olympics medal, but that
distinction may not last long. Her older brother, Ivica, is a favorite --
along with Bode Miller -- in the men's slalom on Saturday.
The Kostelic siblings are coached by their father, Ante, and the entire
family made huge sacrifices for skiing.
Since their embattled homeland has only two small ski resorts, they traveled
around Europe to compete in junior races -- often sleeping in tents or in
the car, living on salami and pickle sandwiches.
In the Croatian capital of Zagreb, screams of joy came out from downtown
apartments and shots were fired in the air as Kostelic won.
"It's unbelievable! She's amazing, I'm so proud of her," said Zagreb
resident Nevena Morandic, wiping away tears of joy. "She's the best thing
our country has."
Kostelic, who missed the first half of the World Cup season while recovering
from three offseason operations on her left knee, ranks only 30th in the
giant slalom on the World Cup circuit this season.
She has never placed higher than fourth in a World Cup giant slalom.
After finishing, Kostelic kissed a small Croatian flag and then got a
high-five and a big hug from Paerson.
The sharply sloping course and tight turns forced the skiers to fling their
bodies from side to side as they raced down the course on a balmy day with
temperatures in the mid-40s.
Kostelic became the only skier to win four Alpine medals at an Olympics.
Five men and five women, including Kostelic, have won three Alpine medals at
an Olympics. There were only three Alpine events until 1988, when the Super
G debuted and the combined event was reintroduced after a 40-year hiatus.
Kostelic won a medal in every event in which she competed. She did not
participate in the downhill.
The top U.S. skier in Friday's race was Kristina Koznick, who finished 17th.
The U.S. women were shut out of Alpine medals here for the first time since
the 1988 Calgary Games. The only top-10 finish in Alpine by a U.S. woman was
Lindsey Kildow's sixth place in the combined event.
(E) Janica wins her 4th medal!
February 22, 2002
By Alan Baldwin
PARK CITY, Utah (Reuters) - Croatia's Janica Kostelic hurtled to giant
slalom gold to become the first Alpine skier to win four Olympic medals at a
The 20-year-old was also the first woman to win three Alpine golds at one
Games and only the third skier to achieve the feat after France's
Jean-Claude Killy in 1968 and Austrian Toni Sailer in 1956.
Kostelic won by a breathtaking margin, a hefty 1.32 seconds ahead of
Sweden's Anja Paerson and 1.66 clear of Swiss bronze medallist Sonja Nef.
Yet Kostelic had seemed a long shot before Friday's start, never before
having finished on the podium in giant slalom.
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. Her final time was two minutes 30.01 seconds.
"I don't know what's going on. I'm totally surprised," Kostelic said after
the first run.
There was disappointment for 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 fourth.
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's achievement came with a curious qualifier, in that she was the
first Alpine skier to win four Olympic medals at a Games rather than four
Liechtenstein's Hanni Wenzel, in 1980, and Germany's Rosi Mittermaier, in
1976, also took four medals.
But the combined, adding the downhill times to the slalom, did not count as
a full Olympic event in those days and the medal awarded was an
International Ski Federation (FIS) world championship one.
Kostelic was fastest by a hefty 0.49 after the first run and she was again
fastest in the second leg with a lightning time of 1:14.01.
Paerson was second quickest in 1:14.46 to move up from fourth place and
claim her second medal of the Games after securing a bronze in the slalom.
Watched by the Swedish royal family, she had wanted her country's first gold
of the Olympics but Kostelic, despite lingering pain after repeated surgery
on her knee last year, was just too strong.
Kostelic's best in giant slalom also came in Park City in 1999 when she
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.
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