Winter Olympics / Giant Slalom: Hardy Italian's reward

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The Independent Online
DEBORAH COMPAGNONI yesterday capped her comeback from the knee injury she suffered in a fall during the Albertville Games by winning her second Olympic gold medal, in the giant slalom here yesterday, writes Bill Scott from Lillehammer.

The Italian, who has a tortured medical history, won the gold with a healthy margin of 1.22sec over Martina Ertl, whose silver medal kept the German juggernaut rolling along. Vreni Schneider, who won two gold medals at the Calgary Games six years ago, again played the heroine's role for Switzerland, adding the bronze to her silver in the combined earlier this week.

Compagnoni has probably missed as many major Alpine events as she has managed to attend. A knee injury in 1988 kept her away from the Calgary Games, she then hurt the same knee again 18 months after the first accident. A twisted intestine in late 1990 almost proved fatal, and her life was saved only by the quick thinking of her father who rushed his daughter to hospital more than 50 kilometres from home.

She missed the 1991 World Championships and two years ago, she won the super-giant slalom at Albertville only to fall in the giant slalom 24 hours later, suffering a knee injury that required surgery and lengthy rehabilitation.

Compagnoni's training methods have included lengthy periods of pitting herself against the Italian men's team, including Alberto Tomba.

Compagnoni's gold after three World Cup giant slalom wins this season, came on the day when fellow Italian Manuela De Centa won the women's 30-kilometre cross- country. 'I guess none of the men on the team will be jealous, but maybe Tomba will,' Compagnoni joked. She dedicated the medal to Ulrike Maier, the Austrian skier who was killed during a downhill at Garmisch in January.

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