By Alan Baldwin PARK CITY, Utah (Reuters) - Croatia's Janica Kostelic hurtled to giant slalom gold on Friday to become the first Alpine skier to win four Olympic medals at a single Games. The 20-year-old was also the first woman to win three Alpine golds at one Games and only the third skier to achieve the feat after France's Jean-Claude Killy in 1968 and Austrian Toni Sailer in 1956. Kostelic won by a breathtaking margin, a hefty 1.32 seconds ahead of Sweden's Anja Paerson and 1.66 clear of Swiss bronze medallist Sonja Nef, and she gave everything in her last race of the Olympics. ``I've got no energy left,'' she gasped, brandishing the Croatian flag in the finish area. ``I think I'll just go and pick my medal and go to bed.'' ``I was not nervous at the start of the second run. Two seconds before the start my father told me 'grab your poles and give it full power for the first five or six gates.' ``I didn't care about the record. I just take one race at a time,'' added Kostelic. Yet Kostelic had seemed a long shot before Friday's start, never before having finished on the podium in giant slalom. She had won the combined and slalom golds and taken a silver in super-G, but even she thought the giant slalom likely to be one race too far. Instead her opening run from a 19th start position blasted away any doubts and her second was every bit as crushing on the piste set by Paerson's father Anders. GREAT FEELING ``I came here hoping to take a medal and I've got two which is more than I could ask for,'' said Paerson. ``Maybe for the first time today I had a great feeling in a giant slalom. I have struggled a bit in that event but maybe that's over now.'' Her delight contrasted to the disappointment felt by Austrian Alexandra Meissnitzer, a former world champion and silver medallist from Nagano four years ago, who failed to match the pace on the second run and fell back from second to fourth. Spain's Maria Jose Rienda Contreras had been third, hoping to become her country's first Alpine medallist since Blanca Fernandez-Ochoa in 1992, but she faded to sixth. Kostelic was the first to win four Olympic medals at a Games but Liechtenstein's Hanni Wenzel, in 1980, and Germany's Rosi Mittermaier, in 1976, also took four medals. However the combined was not a separate event in those days and the medal awarded was an International Ski Federation (FIS) world championship one. Kostelic was fastest by 0.49 after the first run and she was again fastest in the second leg. Paerson was second quickest to move up from fourth place and claim her second medal of the Games after securing a bronze in the slalom. The 20-year-old, watched by her country's royal family, had wanted Sweden's first gold of the Olympics but Kostelic, despite lingering pain after repeated surgery on her knee last year, was just too strong. Kostelic's best previous finish in giant slalom also came in Park City in 1999 when she was fourth. Nef, who crashed out of Wednesday's slalom and almost fell in the first leg, saved Swiss pride with the team's first Alpine medal of the Games. ``After the first run I knew gold would be difficult, if not impossible, but I knew I still had a chance of taking a medal,'' said Nef. ``I'm very pleased with my second run.'' Janica Kostelic of Croatia celebrates with her national flag after winning the women's giant slalom at the Salt Lake 2002 Winter Olympic Games February 22, 2002. Kostelic became the first Alpine skier to win four medals at one Winter games. (Eric Gaillard/Reuters) source: http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/nm/20020222/sp/olympics_alpineskiing_women_giant_dc_5.html


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