The Croatian Sensation's Comeback

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Last September Janica Kostelic wondered if she would be skiing well enough to make any impression at the Olympics. After three knee operations in the off-season, the 2001 overall World Cup champion was going to have to fight to be fit. Last week her fears proved unfounded as she became the first alpine skier to win four Olympic medals at a single Games. And three of those were gold.

The "Croatian Sensation" missed the first half of the World Cup season completely, and her results when she did take to the piste were far from her best. But come the Olympics she switched up a gear to the form that last year had won her eight consecutive slalom races. She had little time to train for the women's combined but won that by nearly 1.5 sec. Three days later she missed winning the super-G by a mere .05 sec. But she was happy enough with silver. "I was a little bit out of line," she said, "but it was fun." Two days' rest, and she went out to compete in the slalom over a difficult course with fresh snow covering soft ice. It was so difficult that 30 competitors failed to finish in either first or second runs. Kostelic had what she said were "two bad runs." They may not have been up to her exacting standards, but they were good enough for the gold. Then on Friday came the history-making race, the giant slalom. Two good runs gave her victory by an astonishing 1.32 sec. "It's great," she said of her historic win, "but someone is going to break that record soon." The odds are that the someone will be Kostelic herself.