Croatian siblings overcome hardshipPosted: Tuesday February 19, 2002 8:40 PM
PARK CITY, Utah (AP) -- They overcame unrest during the breakup of Yugoslavia. They slept in the family car and skipped meals in favor of buying ski lift tickets.
Neither warfare nor hardship could stop Croatian siblings Janica and Ivica Kostelic from joining the world's skiing elite.
Now, enjoying a bit more peace and prosperity, the pair seek to become the first brother-sister team in 22 years to win Alpine skiing medals at the same Olympics.
Janica already has done her part, winning the combined event and getting silver in the super giant slalom. And now she's entering her best events, Wednesday's slalom and the giant slalom Friday.
"I have my medals. If I crash, it doesn't matter. I don't need anything else," said Janica, 20. "If it happens, it would be perfect. But if it doesn't, it's already perfect."
Ivica, 22, winner of two World Cup slalom races this season, will be favored -- along with American Bode Miller -- in the men's slalom Saturday.
"It would be nice if he wins a medal in the slalom," said Janica, who painted her brother's name on the nails of her left hand for the combined event, and "Mama" for the Super G. "My medals were a family dream come true. If he wins a medal, that would be everything we need.
"I have no advice for him, though. He's smarter than me, so he knows what to do."
The last brother-sister team to collect skiing medals at the same games were Andreas and Hanni Wenzel of Liechtenstein in 1980.
Andreas Wenzel took silver in the giant slalom there, while Hanni swept gold in the slalom and giant slalom, with silver in the downhill.
The Kostelic siblings are coached by their father, Ante. Sacrifice and hardship was a part of everyday life as they developed their skiing careers.
Training was difficult in Croatia, home to just two small ski resorts and infrequent snows.
The family traveled around Europe competing in junior races, often sleeping in tents -- or in the car when the weather got cold. They lived off of salami and pickle sandwiches.
"It's true we had no money. But when you're a kid you don't really think about it, you're just doing it," said Janica, who won Croatia it's first Winter Olympics medals last week. "It was a bit like camping. It's a lot better now."
Janica won eight straight slalom races to clinch the World Cup overall title last year, becoming the second-youngest woman to win the overall title. But she has been bothered the past year by knee problems that required three operations this past summer.
"It's really been interesting to watch her, because it's taken her some time to get her confidence back after her injury," said U.S. slalomer Kristina Koznick. "There are five or six girls who could win the slalom or the giant slalom, and she's one of them."
Ivica's career also has been stalled by injury, including four serious knee injuries and four operations since 1998.
He won his first World Cup race in this season's opening slalom in Aspen, Colo., skiing out of the 64th position in the first run. He set a record for the latest starting position for a slalom winner in World Cup history.
"I have no secret for training them," Ante Kostelic said with a shrug after watching Janica win her silver medal Sunday in the Super G. "All I can say is I've been doing this job for 10 to 12 years nonstop."