Park City, UT Feb. 22, 2002 (AP by Rob Gloster)–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, 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 ever 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.