Do have a cow: Kildow loves prize for downhill win

VAL D'ISERE, France -- She has won money, medals and trophies. Now, Lindsey Kildow is the proud owner of a cow -- courtesy of the local cheese farmers.

Appropriately named Olympe, the toffee-brown cow was awarded to Kildow after the American won Saturday's World Cup downhill in this French resort.

The farmers initially awarded the Tarine cow with the intention of buying it back. Instead, Kildow returned a $1,200 check to Olympe's owners, insisting the cow was hers.

"I have a pet in Europe!" said Kildow, who has won two World Cup downhills this season and is a favorite for the Turin Olympics. "She may not be transportable, but it's still kind of cool."

Kildow of Vail, Colo., arranged to have people in the region care for her half-ton pet before Olympe is shipped to a farm close to the U.S. team's training base in Austria next year.

"She's going to join me later, sometime in October," said Kildow, who is headed to the next stop on the World Cup circuit in the Czech Republic for giant slalom and slalom events. "I'll miss her for a while, but oh well. We're not going to be together, but hopefully she'll be thinking about me."

Tarines are a local breed whose milk is used to make the famous Beaufort cheese of the region. Kildow, stroking Olympe's head, said it was the strangest prize she had won.

"Last year I had a lot of top three results, but we didn't really get any prizes -- just money -- so this is really awesome," said Kildow, who suspects Olympe brings good luck since she won after petting the cow the morning of her victory. "She's a little ornery, but she's cool."

Arpin Xavier, a representative of the Cooperative Laitiere de Haute-Tarentaise, which donated the cow, says the commotion has been hard on 8-year-old Olympe.

"It's winter. She has been inside for two months and then we drag her to this mountaintop and there is so much activity, noise and attention," Xavier said. "This is not easy for her. You have to see it from the cow's point of view."

Xavier was impressed Kildow decided to keep the cow. He said it would have been more practical for Kildow to take the cash.

"We were very touched that she liked it so much," Xavier said.

Kildow is thought to be the first ski racer to receive a cow as a prize. However, after winning Wimbledon in 2003, tournament officials in Gstaad, Switzerland, gave Roger Federer a cow named Juliette, who since has had a calf.

After winning Saturday's downhill, Kildow received not only the cow and about $27,600 in prize money, but she also received mighty praise from 1999 World Cup overall champion Alexandra Meissnitzer.

"She showed us last year she could do downhill, and she's doing it again," the Austrian said. "We're always looking at what she's doing a little bit because we know she can be super fast, and I think she's already the favorite for the World Cup downhill title.

"I just think she has it in her. There are a few things in downhill you can't learn. It's like when you have the feeling for the skis, like Picabo Street, she had it. Kildow is also always really good in the technical parts, so I think she has everything. That's what it takes."