Four-time Olympic alpine skiing champion Janica Kostelic of Croatia has announced that she will sit out a year of competition.
Kostelic says she will be unable to defend her overall World Cup title because of nagging problems with her knees and back. The 24-year-old Croatian star said the pain is causing her "quite a lot of problems."
Kostelic said her decision to take the season off from top-level skiing was a difficult one. She added that after a year off she will see how she feels.
Kostelic, dubbed the "Ski Queen" in Croatia, became the first woman to win four Olympic alpine skiing gold medals after her victory in the women's combined event at the Winter Games last February in Turin, Italy. She went on to win the overall women's World Cup championship for the third time.
Meanwhile, Croatia's ski federation officials stressed their support for the decision by Kostelic to take the lengthy break.
This is not the first time that Kostelic will miss an entire alpine ski season. She was sidelined for the 2003-2004 season with a serious thyroid gland problem.
This year's World Cup season is scheduled to begin Ocotober 28 in Soelden, Austria.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.