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Kornberger secures double triumph on the slopes

Austria's Petra Kornberger came to these Games with a reputation as the world’s top female Alpine skier. She had won the overall World Cup title in the previous two seasons, and was on the way to winning it again, thanks to a series of remarkably consistent performances.

However, six months before the Albertville Games, she had endured a personal tragedy when her coach Aloïs Kahr had been killed in a car crash, along with another skier, Rudo Nierlich.

Kornberger and Kahr had worked together closely and she admitted to missing him terribly during the Games. But she said she still heard his voice, giving her advice, and it helped inspire her to greater heights.

Four years earlier in Calgary, the Austrian had made her Olympic debut as an 18-year-old, earning valuable experience of what it was like to compete on winter sport's greatest stage. Then she had taken part in three events, but this time she was entered in a maximum of five. She failed to finish one of them – the giant slalom – but was in the top five in each of the others, yet again underlining her trademark consistency.

The downhill saw her finish fifth, before she went one better in the super-G. However, it was in the combined that she found her finest form.

She won the downhill section with some ease, beating the rest of the field by half a second, but then her first run in the slalom was a disappointment. She was only sixth fastest, and it appeared that she might be about to lose out on the gold medal that had seemed hers for the taking. Just before her second slalom run, she heard Kahr's voice in her head, inspiring her and pushing her to go faster. It produced the desired effect, as she set the fastest time of the run, and secured the gold medal.

A week later, she returned to the top step of the podium after victory in the slalom, making her a double Olympic champion at the age of just 22. Already many were predicting that she could dominate again two years later in Lillehammer, but before the year was out Kornberger decided to retire from competition. She returned to education, earning a master's degree, and taking up a role at Salzburg Museum.

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