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Injury, illness leave questions for favored women

SHARE Injury, illness leave questions for favored women

SAN SICARIO, Italy — The biggest question heading into the women's downhill Wednesday isn't who'll win — it's who'll race.

Medal contenders Lindsey Kildow of the United States, Carole Montillet-Carles of France and Janica Kostelic of Croatia will wait until race morning to decide whether to compete — Kildow and Montillet-Carles after brutal crashes Monday, Kostelic after falling ill.

The beneficiaries are Sweden's Anja Paerson, Kildow's American teammate Julia Mancuso and a trio of veteran speedsters from Austria — Michaela Dorfmeister, Renate Goetschl and Alexandra Meissnitzer.

All five skied well in training runs marred by a string of crashes.

Kildow, who won two World Cup downhills earlier this season, was discharged from the hospital Tuesday, though her lower back and pelvis still hurt. Montillet-Carles, the defending Olympic champion, injured her rib, back and face in her crash. Kostelic pulled out suddenly before Tuesday's training, saying she didn't feel well — and was next seen hugging her brother, Ivica, as he won silver in the men's combined Tuesday night.

Wednesday's race had been hailed as the first showdown between rivals Kostelic and Paerson, who won on the San Sicario course last year and is trying to emulate the Croatian's three golds in Salt Lake City four years ago.

Both skiers have entered all five Alpine skiing events.

"I hope she's healthy," Paerson said of Kostelic. "But I have to start thinking about myself and not anyone else."

On Tuesday, Paerson placed second behind unheralded Canadian Kelly Vanderbeek, though each of the big three Austrians braked before crossing the finish line.

The finish order determined the starting order for Wednesday's race, with the top 30 going out in reverse order. If Kildow, Kostelic and Montillet-Carles race, they will start after the top 30.

The Austrians said they wanted to start earlier because vision was better — after sunny mornings, high clouds have drifted over the Italian Alps midway through each training session.

"The light is very important down here," said Dorfmeister, who has already clinched the season's World Cup downhill title.

Snow is forecast for Wednesday. But the biggest problem skiers might face is fatigue. At nearly two miles, the Fraiteve Olympique course is by far the longest on the women's circuit.

After Dorfmeister and several other skiers complained last season that it was too easy, organizers responded with summer landscape changes — making jumps bigger and adding more bumps and other terrain. The run now includes some of the longest jumps on the women's circuit.

"It's not an easy downhill, that's for sure," Paerson said. "There's something happening all the time. It's almost a two-minute downhill at high altitude."

Mancuso made her speed breakthrough with two second-place finishes at Cortina d'Ampezzo in World Cup races last month. She also has done well in training here and is among the favorites.

"I'm feeling good on my skis," she said. "It's exciting to feel so comfortable."

Several others have a shot at a medal: Vanderbeek, Switzerland's Martina Schild and Fraenzi Aufdenblatten and Italy's Lucia Recchia — all four of whom have logged fast times in training.