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Thursday, February 14, 2002
 
Kostelic wins combined after Lalive drops out

Associated Press


SNOWBASIN, Utah -- Caroline Lalive just can't seem to stay on her skis.

America's best all-around female skier extended a dubious streak by flopping and then dropping out of the women's combined event, wiping out her hopes of matching Bode Miller's silver medal in that event.

Caroline Lalive
It was a distressful, and short day, for Carolina Lalive of the U.S. who fell during the first run of the slalom.

The winner was Janica Kostelic, the first Croatian medalist at a Winter Olympics and the first member of her family with a medal at the Salt Lake City Games.

Her older brother, Ivica, is a favorite in the men's slalom next week. Kostelic, 20, skied the race Thursday with the letters I-V-I-C-A painted on the nails of her left hand.

"It's a family medal," she said. "It's a family dream come true."

Renate Goetschl of Austria won the silver medal and Germany's Martina Ertl won bronze. Lindsey Kildow, 17, of Vail, Colo., placed sixth in her Olympic debut.

Lalive, of Steamboat Springs, Colo., finished seventh in the combined event at the 1998 Nagano Games and was a medal hopeful in the event here.

She also was hoping just to complete a major race.

Lalive had crashed out of the downhill two days earlier, the sixth consecutive Olympic or world championship race in which her name has been accompanied by the code DNF -- Did Not Finish.

But she slipped midway down the first slalom run and slid past two gates. She got to her feet, gallantly trekking sideways back up the mountain -- right ski followed by left, 13 painstakingly slow steps.

She finished a whopping 17.85 seconds behind first-run leader Kostelic and had little chance of making up enough time in the second slalom run and downhill to contend for a medal.

Lalive stormed off the mountain, telling U.S. Ski Team officials she had nothing to say. Then she failed to show up for the second slalom run, extending her streak of DNFs to seven.

Falling has become a bad habit for Lalive. She broke her left wrist last May, and missed a preseason training camp, after crashing on her mountain bike in southeastern Utah.

Lalive has earned points in all five World Cup disciplines, but U.S. coaches have worried that she's stretched too thin and not able to focus on individual events.

She is scheduled to race again in the super giant slalom Sunday, but U.S. women's coach Marjan Cernigoj said Thursday that Kildow -- and not Lalive -- had earned the fourth American spot in the slalom next week.

Cernigoj insisted Lalive's problems are technical, not mental, and said there was little point in her finishing the combined event.

"She was disappointed, she was down on herself," he said. "To continue today, she did not have a chance. The combined event for her was over. We want to save the energy for Super G."

Kostelic completed the two slalom runs and the downhill that make up the combined event in 2 minutes, 43.28 seconds. She won by nearly 1½ seconds over Goetschl, who captured her second medal in three days -- she won bronze in the downhill Tuesday.

After Lalive dropped out, Kildow immediately changed from a rookie into her nation's best hope for a medal.

"I was thinking about being the top American. It felt good. I'm pumped," Kildow said. "(Lalive is) the best person in the world, and I wanted her to win so bad. But things don't always work out."

Julia Mancuso, 17, from Squaw Valley, Calif., finished 13th. She also was making her Olympic debut.

Kostelic, who won the World Cup slalom and overall titles last season, is coming back from September knee surgery that kept her off the World Cup circuit until late December. She will be among the favorites in the slalom next week.

Kostelic, who finished eighth in the 1998 Olympic combined event as a 16-year-old, waved a huge Croatian flag at an informal medal ceremony following the race. Croatia is competing in its third Winter Olympics.

Weather forced officials to rearrange the order of the combined event. The downhill portion had been scheduled for the morning, with two slalom runs in the afternoon, similar to the men's program Wednesday in which Miller stormed from behind to capture a silver medal.

But high winds and fog made running a downhill Thursday morning impossible, so officials decided to run the slalom first and hope for better conditions in the afternoon.