A few months before the Winter Olympics got under way in Salt Lake City, Croatian skier Janica Kostelic was recovering from surgery on her knee and her chances of even participating looked mighty slim.
The 2001 World Cup champion would have been a warm favourite had she been firing on all cylinders but her wretched run with injuries meant she only had an outside chance of success.
But nothing turns expectations on their head quite like the Olympic Games, and by the end of February 2002 Kostelic, who had only just turned 20, had carved herself into the record books.
She was to become the first woman to win four alpine skiing medals at the same Games, and her three golds were also an unprecedented achievement in the sport.
Fundamental to her success was her consummate slaloming style, which set her apart from her rivals.
She opted not to enter the downhill where the speedsters are king and opted to tackle the more technical courses at Deer Valley and the Snowbasin.
Her opening event was the combined, but because of strong winds at the Snowbasin course organisers opted to switch round the format of the event with the slalom runs first followed by a decisive downhill.
She was the fastest in the slalom runs by over a second and despite being pursued by more accomplished downhillers she maintained her lead, in fact she clocked the third fastest downhill time to win gold by almost 1.5 seconds.
She was a mere five hundredths of a second off gold in the super-G and had to settle for the silver behind Italy’s Daniela Ceccarelli but she rediscovered her golden touch in the slalom.
A week after her opening gold, Kostelic took the honours by seven hundredths of a second from France’s Laure Pequegnot.
She saved her most crushing victory until last. The 20-year-old had never won a World Cup giant slalom but her supremacy in Utah was total.
She was over as second faster than the rest of the field and tore down the twisting descent at Park City Mountain Resort with staggering grace, speed and precision.
Kostelic’s lead was extended to 1.32 seconds after the second run and as she looked back to the scoreboard under the cloudless skies she punched the air with joy.
Four years later, Kostelic successfully defended her combined gold in Turin to become the first woman to win four alpine skiing Olympic golds.