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Saturday, 23 February, 2002, 04:03 GMT

Confidence counts for Kostelic

BBC Sport's skiing expert Martin Bell explains how confidence helped Janica Kostelic beat the odds to win the giant slalom and enter the history books.

Janica Kostelic had a tough prospect on the first run because she didn't have the greatest of start numbers going at 19.

She certainly had a much rougher course to deal with than Sonia Nef, who was pre-race favourite and went number one.

But when a racer is skiing supremely well and confidently, they can handle the ruts on the course and make them seem as though they are not there.

"For me, Kostelic was the favourite because I know how important current confidence is in ski racing"
Martin Bell

That's what she did and she took a lead in the first run and built it up even more in the second run.

It's amazing because Janica has never been on the podium of a World Cup giant slalom and, on paper, Nef was the favourite, mainly because she was so dominant last season.

But for me, Kostelic was the favourite because I know how important current confidence is in ski racing, and it translates from one discipline to the other.

The fact that she had done so well in the super-G, which was even less her discipline than the giant slalom, made me think that we were about to witness something pretty special.

It's a pretty big achievement for Croatia, which traditionally has never really produced top international skiers.

Before the Balkan break-up, there was a Yugoslavian ski team and they were very strong,

But they were almost exclusively Slovenians from what is now the northern neighbour of Croatia.

So it's a big achievement for her and she's going to be up there with tennis star Goran Ivanisevic.

The Swiss will be basically relieved that they have an alpine skiing medal through Nef's bronze, but it may not be enough to save the jobs of some of the team's coaches - it's that serious.

Sweden's Amy Paerson will be delighted with her silver, which leaves her with two medals, having picked up bronze in the slalom.

As for the British contender, Chemmy Alcott finished roughly around the level of her ranking coming into the event.

She came 30th, so she didn't really raise her game for the big event.

But, at 19, she's still young and, hopefully, she has two more Olympic Games in her career.

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