Kildow can’t finish because of the pain
SESTRIERE, Italy – Lindsey Kildow grimaced with every turn around each gate in the Olympic combined slalom event on Friday. There was no question that she was suffering.Kildow, gritting her teeth as she crossed the finish line, was in 11th place after her first slalom run. She started her second run and was going strong. Her splits dropped into the 0s, and suddenly she was in the lead. This, from a girl who was airlifted to the hospital after a crash in downhill training on Monday, then raced in the Olympic downhill on Wednesday, finishing eighth place, before pointing out afterwards that the combined event would be challenging for her “because slalom is hard enough even when you’re not in this much pain.”As Kildow was more than halfway down the course Friday, her skis flew out from under her on a right turn, and she went down in a cloud of snow. Eyebrows furrowed, she tried to stand up, then sat back down on the snow again.Apparently, not finishing a race is the only thing that will force Kildow to take a day off.She limped past the media corral with her head bowed, clearly not wanting to talk to anyone.
As she walked away, someone asked her what hurt the most.”My back,” she said. “I’m in a lot of pain.”Kildow wasn’t the only medal favorite fighting adversity.Defending champion Janica Kostelic, who missed the downhill because of illness, positioned herself for a gold medal showdown with rival Anja Paerson in the alpine combined event – only to say she might be too sick to start Saturday’s downhill portion.And Vail racer Lindsey Kildow endured another painful fall, though this time she was able to walk away.The Croatian Kostelic finally made her Turin Games debut Friday, though she later made it sound like her appearance might be more of a cameo.”There’s no reason to compete when I’m feeling like this,” she told reporters.Skiing on a flood-lit slope, Kostelic had the second-fastest time over two runs. Paerson, the two-time defending World Cup champion from Sweden, was fourth.
The combined includes two parts: Two evening slalom legs and one downhill run.In the downhill Kostelic and Paerson are far better than the current leader, slalom specialist Marlies Schild of Austria, who finished at 1:21.22. Kostelic was .46 seconds behind Schild, Paerson .84 back.”I’m a confident downhill skier,” said Paerson, who took bronze in Wednesday’s downhill which Kostelic was unable to start. “I just have to ski and do my work and hopefully I will do well.””I couldn’t go five gates without having to sob and recuperate because my back hurt so bad,” Kildow told the Associated Press later. “I just can’t ski the way I want, so it’s really frustrating, but I’m happy to be here.”She called her fall a potential “blessing in disguise” because, instead of racing Saturday, she’d be able to rest and for Sunday’s super G.”Hopefully I’ll have some better luck,” she said.The event itself didn’t have much luck Friday.Following an hour-plus delay, organizers had to postpone the downhill one day after the first skier down was caught by a wind gust on a jump and skidded on her back.
Nika Fleiss of Croatia scrambled to her feet and skied down, but race officials huddled and minutes later announced the postponement.As well as being unsafe, the gusts could have made the competition unfair – while wind might have been a factor for some skiers, it might have subsided for others.Flipping the order of an Olympic combined to the slalom before the downhill happened once before, in the men’s event at the storm-tossed 1998 Nagano Games.Wind persisted into the evening, but wasn’t nearly such a factor in the slower, turn-heavy slalom.While Kostelic and Paerson squared off on skis, their fans competed in loud groups in the mostly empty stands.Kostelic’s group waved Croatian flags and a banner that read “Janica.” Paerson’s supporters, many with faces painted in Sweden’s blue and yellow, waved Swedish flags and cheered. When Kostelic skied, the Swedish fans stood silent. When Paerson skied, the Kostelic crowd said nothing.Only 32 of the 43 skiers who started the race ended up on the final results list.While most of the 11 did not finish, Chemmy Alcott of Britain, was disqualified after the first run for using improper equipment.
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The 2020-21 Nordic combined season was supposed to be historic. This winter was going to be the first ever with women’s Nordic combined World Cup events, the first scheduled for Dec. 3-6 in Lillehammer, Norway.