Sunday, February 17, 2002
Kostelic adds silver to her collection
By Anne Marie Cruz
ESPN The Magazine
SNOWBASIN, Utah -- Janica Kostelic has two medals. Now all she needs is a Jamaican accent, a head wrap and a psychic hotline.
Hours before the Super G race Sunday morning, Kostelic predicted who'd be on the podium. Her coach insisted that the day would belong to the Austrians, Renate Goetschl and Alexandra Meissnitzer.
But Kostelic shook her head.
"The course is turny and technical," she replied. "And that will be good for the Italians, Daniela Ceccarelli and Karen Putzer."
And as she dropped into the Glacier Bowl at the top of the Wildflower course, Kostelic's prediction already had come true: Ceccarelli and Putzer were standing first and second. The only thing Kostelic hadn't foreseen was her own fate. Her maroon-polished nails now spelling out "Mamma" -- during her gold-medal combined, they read "Ivica," in honor of her older brother -- she needed only 1:13.64 to sandwich herself between the two Italians to take the silver.
The Americans could only dream of faring that well. Kirsten Clark, who had won a World Cup bronze at the St. Moritz Super G earlier this season, managed only 14th place, while her teammates Joanna Mendes and Katie Monahan ended up 16th and 17th, respectively.
Meanwhile, American Caroline Lalive, also a World Cup bronze-medal winner this season, caught an edge coming off the Glacier Bowl section of the course, and she slid off course. The eight Fijians who had flown out to Utah to cheer her on stood dumbstruck, clutching their homemade signs. For several minutes, none of them said a word, staring off blindly toward the giant monitor at the finish line. Their cheers of "Bula vinaka" -- meaning "Good luck," "Greetings" and "Welcome" -- had been useless.
Weirdly, Mamma, a.k.a. Marica Kostelic, was about as animated as the dejected Fijians, even though her daughter had won her second medal of these Games. Watching from an area cordoned off for Olympic officials, Mamma's credential read, "Equipment Technician," but she grimaced when asked if she had worked on Janica's skis this morning.
"I am always with them," Mom said, referring to her kids and the Croatian ski team. "I am always passing with this."
Her eyes were dull with annoyance, and she quickly turned away.
Team Italia, on the other hand, caroused and slapped each other on the back.
"Grandissima, Daniella!" yelled a patriarch of the team, as the gold medalist flashed an ecstatic grin. Another Italian official burst out singing, "We are the champions," his thick accent an amusing counterpoint to the overblown stadium standby.
During the flower ceremony, when Kostelic shared her prescience with the two Italians, they beamed back in amazement.
"I was amazed that Janica could have foreseen this," Putzer said later, through her translator. "I knew that the course might be good for me, but it was difficult to envision myself with a medal."
But at her news conference, Kostelic hid behind a veneer of apathy. Although the Croatian teen now had a Super G silver to go along with her gold in the combined, the questions lobbed at her seemed to suck away any residue of her enthusiasm.
"Wildflower isn't a very hard course," said Kostelic, nearly yawning. "But as I was skiing, I thought I was going too slow. I thought I had a bad race, and I didn't want to look up at the scoreboard. I was very surprised when I saw I came in second."
When asked if she thought she was the favorite for the slalom Wednesday, she shrugged.
"I have two medals already, I don't need another one," she said. "If I win the slalom, it's perfect. If I don't, it's perfect again."
Only when she was asked whether her brother, who didn't watch this race because he was training at Deer Valley for his own Olympic giant slalom and slalom races, would be proud of her, did she let her guard down.
"Oh!" she said, with a girlish hiccup. "I hope so. But I don't know."
Anne Marie Cruz writes for ESPN The Magazine.