February 6, 2005
SANTA CATERINA VALFURVA, Italy (AP)--Croatia's Janica Kostelic won her second gold medal in three days, capturing the downhill at the world championships in another emphatic step in her recovery from illness and injury.
Kostelic, winner of Friday's combined, missed all of last season after thyroid surgery and several knee operations and hadn't raced a downhill in almost two years. On Sunday, she cut a daring line down the chilly, sun-drenched course to win in 1 minute, 39.90 seconds.
``This may be my favorite victory,'' she said. ``It's hard to say because all victories are special. But it's something I never expected so soon, especially after last season. I don't know how it happened.''
Elena Fanchini of Italy rewarded the home crowd by taking the silver medal in 1:40.16. Renate Goetschl of Austria was third in 1:40.29, beating Lindsey Kildow of the United States for a medal. The American finished fourth for the second time at these worlds, and countrywoman Jonna Mendes was 12th.
Fanchini, a 19-year-old rookie, made her World Cup debut last month, placing 17th in a pair of downhills. This time, she set the pace early, then watched as 16 other racers were unable to match her time. It was only when Kostelic came down that Fanchini was ousted from the leader's spot.
Goetschl, who won the World Cup downhill title last year, leads this season's standings. She also won the downhill at the 1999 worlds in Vail, Colo.
Goetschl was trying to give her country a lift after Austria's men Saturday lost the downhill title for the first time in six years. She struggled at the beginning of this season but won three of four speed races in Cortina d'Ampezzo last month.
``This compensates for much,'' said Goetschl, who finished 23rd in the super giant slalom. ``I felt rage in my belly. I knew I had nothing to lose. I am pleased with the bronze medal. Giving more wasn't possible. It was a good run for me.''
Kildow finished ninth in last weekend's super-G and fourth in the combined, where she missed a bronze medal by 0.20 seconds.
She was strong on the upper part of the course Sunday and looked set to take the bronze with her time of 1:40.52. The 20-year-old skier was devastated when Goetschl bettered her time and sobbed when she was relegated again to fourth.
``I don't work six hours in the gym just to be fourth,'' said Kildow, who finished second and fourth in the two World Cup races in Bormio last month. ``I may be young but my goal was to be world champion here. I have to go back to the drawing board to figure out what it's going to take.''
``Maybe my time is next year,'' she added, referring to the Turin Olympics.
France's Ingrid Jacquemod was fifth in 1:40.86. Sweden's Jessica Lindell-Vikarby was fast and crisp on the upper part of the course, but she ended sixth in 1:40.98. She was followed by teammate and reigning overall World Cup champion Anja Paerson, who looked strong until going wide on a turn in the lower section and dropped from contention.
Michaela Dorfmeister, the 2001 downhill world champion and one of the favorites, crashed out. The Austrian won the downhill on this course last month in a World Cup race as well as the last downhill in Cortina, preventing Goetschl from winning four straight races.
Reigning Olympic downhill champion Carole Montillet-Carles of France, competing in what is most likely to be her last worlds, finished 21st.
Copyright © 2005 The Associated Press