FILE UNDER -- Alpine

Italian great Isolde Kostner retires due to pregnancy

Italian great Isolde Kostner retires due to pregnancyItalian skiing ace Isolde Kostner is quitting the sport on the brink of the Winter Olympics because she is pregnant.

Despite a recent drop in form, the two-time downhill and super G world champion was one of Italy’s prime medal hopes for the Games on the slopes north of Torino.

Announcing the news, Kostner said, ‘My career ends here. My next great challenge won’t be chasing a gold medal but becoming a mother.’

‘I’m grateful to God for giving me this gift. It was completely unexpected and I know some will think it was bad timing.’

The head of the Italian Skiing Federation, Gaetano Coppi, said, ‘Isi has received a great gift, perhaps the greatest a woman can get. But I would have preferred her to get it a bit later.’

Kostner, 30, had struggled to regain her form after a dramatic fall at Lake Louise at the start of the 2002-03 season.

She finished fourth in the World Cup last year. Kostner won the downhill silver medal at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, where she was a favorite.

When she won the downhill World Cup title in 2001, she became the first Italian to win the women’s downhill World Cup for the second straight year.

Her first downhill title, in March 2000, made her the first Italian skier of either sex to win a World Cup downhill championship.

Kostner began competing as a 19-year-old in 1994, winning the Garmisch downhill and then two Olympic bronze medals at Lillehammer in downhill and super G.

She went on to win two world titles in super G at Sierra Nevada in 1996 and Sestriere in 1997.

Injury problems led to a poor World Championships in 1999 at Vail, in which she failed to win a medal.

At St. Anton in Austria in 2001, she picked up silver in the World Championships super G.

In 1989, Ueli Maier become super G world champion at Vail despite being pregnant, and she won gold again in 1991 before her tragic accident in 1994.

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