Snowbasin, Utah Feb. 13, 2002 (AP by Erica Bulman)--Renate Goetschl of Austria will be counting on her strongest event for her second medal of the games, hoping to add gold in combined to her bronze from the women's downhill.
Goetschl, who placed third in Tuesday's downhill for her first career Olympic medal, is the favorite for Thursday's combined event, which adds the times from a downhill and a slalom.
Led by Goetschl, the Austrians enter the combined event holding the top three spots in the discipline standings. Michaela Dorfmeister and Brigitte Obermoser sit second and third.
``I know I'm a favorite but I think my chances are better in the Super G,'' said Goetschl, the 2000 overall World Cup champion and runner-up last season. ``For me, Janica Kostelic is the favorite.
``I know I won both World Cup combined races this season but in Saalbach, Janica was very good in the downhill. She made a very bad mistake in the slalom and still finished second.''
Kostelic, the Croatian who won the overall World Cup title last season after sweeping seven-of-eight slalom races, sits fourth in the combined rankings tied with Swede Janette Hargin.
Goetschl also picked Germans Martina Ertl and Hilde Gerg, American Caroline Lalive and young Austrian Christine Sponring as medal contenders.
Lalive, who placed third in a Super G World Cup event last year, is the United States' best medal hope in the combined.
Lalive was seventh in the combined at the 1998 Olympics.
The combined event favors the technical skiers rather than the speed specialists.
``Everything depends on the slalom,'' Goetschl said.
At the Olympics and world championships, the layout of the combined downhill course is generally easier, one that slalom skiers can usually manage, as opposed to many of the regular downhills.
In contrast, the slalom is usually difficult for downhillers no matter what, particularly with the newer short skis on which they have little practice during the season.
In addition, there are two slalom runs to mess up on.
For Goetschl, the combined has always been an important event, something she can fall back on in times of difficulty.
She won her first gold medal in a major international championship in the combined at the 1997 World Championships. In 1999, she took silver.
After a sluggish start this year, the 26-year-old Austrian finally clinched her first win of the season, winning the combined in Saalbach, Austria, for her 20th career World Cup victory.
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