Women feel Olympic pressure

Janica Kostelic refuses to dwell on the upcoming Olympics, where the Croat has to live up to expectations raised by three golds from the last games. "I don't think about it so much, I just try to ignore it," Kostelic said Thursday. "But you can't ignore it, when you are alone in your room it comes into your mind." Whether it is Kostelic, her longtime World Cup rival Anja Paerson, or promising 21-year-old Stacey Cook, the women skiers feel the pressure building ahead of the Turin Games, which begin Feb. 10.

Kostelic is favored to add to her golds in giant slalom, combined and slalom from the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, especially after another three-gold performance at last year's world championships. The Croat won't undertake special preparations for Turin, just concentrate on the World Cup circuit, where she leads the overall standings. "I look at it this way, I try to do one race at a time," she said. "The races are the best way to prepare." That was also Alexandra Meissnitzer's philosophy as the women ready themselves for two World Cup downhills and a Super-G this weekend in Bad Kleinkirchheim. "Just go fast in the races, that is the best way to gain confidence," Meissnitzer said.

Meissnitzer is the best downhiller this year behind Lindsey Kildow and Michaela Dorfmeister. Her three top-four finishes sealed the veteran's Olympic berth, not easy on the powerful Austrian team. Now, Meissnitzer can relax as she thinks about an Olympic medal.

"The pressure is off me now," Meissnitzer said. "I would like to win a medal, but everyone wants a medal." Cook, the talented American newcomer, still has to earn her spot at the games on the U.S. team, the best behind Austria. "You don't have to feel the pressure if you don't want to," Cook said of the Olympics. "But it's hard to ignore it, it's just such a big deal."

Cook isn't eying an Olympic medal, not while coping with early success in her first full World Cup season. In two downhills at Lake Louise, the American was eighth and 10th. "I'm learning a lot more than my brain can handle," she said. Kildow has won the last two downhills and will be among the many Americans expected to bring back medals from Turin, reports the AP. N.U.

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