February 15, 2006

Alpine skiing-Kostelic pulls out of downhill

By Sophie Hardach

SAN SICARIO, Italy (Reuters) - Croatian downhill favorite
Janica Kostelic will not start in Wednesday's Olympic downhill
race due to a higher than normal pulse rate, her spokesman

"She had a higher pulse and after her thyroid operation two
years ago we want to be careful and let her recover," he told
Reuters. "She will start in all the other disciplines but not
in today's downhill."

The Croatian, a triple Olympic champion from 2002, was
tipped as one of the strongest contenders in the downhill,
although she has been plagued by a string of injuries and
illnesses over the past years.

Defending champion Carole Montillet, who crashed in
training on Monday, will start the race despite a sore back and
an injured eye, head French coach Lionel Finance told reporters
on Wednesday.

American Lindsey Kildow, who hit her head in a crash in the
same training run, took part in the race inspection early on
Wednesday, reporters said.

A U.S. team spokeswoman later said Kildow would race.
Because she missed training on Tuesday, she will start with
number 31.

Kostelic damaged most of the ligaments in her right knee in
a dramatic crash in late 1999 while training downhill at St
Moritz. Many feared then her career was over.

But she got back into form by the start of the following
season, and took the overall World Cup title in March 2001.

In the following season, she won another overall World Cup
and her first world championship gold medals despite serious
pains in the knee. Several bouts of surgery followed in the
off-season and she missed the opening race of the next

Then doctors discovered that her thyroid gland was not
functioning correctly, a condition that required more surgery
and forced her to sit out the whole of the 2003-2004 season.

Janica Kostelic burst out in tears of joy late on Tuesday
when her brother, Ivica, won a silver medal in the Alpine
skiing combined event.