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Park City, Utah Feb. 21, 2002 (AP by Erica Bulman)–Janica Kostelic came to Utah just hoping to win Croatia’s first Winter Olympic medal. She goes into Friday’s giant slalom with a chance to win more medals at one games than any Alpine skier in history.
With two golds and a silver so far, Kostelic is thrilled but still hungry.
“I didn’t really expect any of the medals, so I’m just happy with what I’ve already done,” Kostelic said after adding her gold in the slalom to one in the combined and a silver in the super giant slalom. “When you ask me if I want another one, for sure I want it. But if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t matter. I still have two more Olympics in front of me, I think.”
Four men and five women, including Kostelic, have won three Alpine skiing 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 36-year hiatus.
The “Croatian Sensation” has a tough battle ahead of her.
Kostelic, who missed the first half of the World Cup season while recovering from three off-season knee operations, has struggled in the giant slalom, her best result a 10th place last month in Germany. She has scored points in just three giant slalom races and is in 30th position in the discipline rankings.
“There’s no pressure on me, I’ve got my medals, so I have nothing to lose,” Kostelic said with a shrug. “I’m just going to go 100 percent. We’ll see what happens with that.”
The 20-year-old Croat’s main challenge will come from reigning world champion Sonja Nef of Switzerland, who is currently on track to defend her World Cup giant slalom crown. The Swiss skier has won two giant slalom races this season.
“If I’m not on the podium, I’ll be very disappointed,” said Nef, who won a World Cup giant slalom race here last season. “Once you’ve been first, it’s difficult to settle even for third or second. For me, the gold from the worlds last season is worth more than five silvers.
“I knew even before coming to the games that my best chance was in the giant slalom and not slalom. This will be an exciting race, the course is worthy of the Olympics.”
Kostelic and Nef will have to fight off Austrian Michaela Dorfmeister, the World Cup giant slalom champion in 2000 and the winner of three giant slalom races this season.
Andrine Flemmen of Norway is also a medal contender, while her teammate Stina Hofgard Nilsen and Canadian Allison Forsyth are considered dark horses. No U.S. skier is among the medal contenders.
Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press