Kostelic soars in slalom, Americans struggle
OFTERSCHWANG, Germany – On a day when American skiers fared no better than 11th place, Janica Kostelic left a powerful impression before the Olympics.Fighting the flu, she won the final World Cup slalom before the Turin Games and became the second woman to win five different disciplines in a season. The performance by Croatia’s tripleOlympic champion Sunday came one day after she missed out on qualifying for the second run of a giant slalom for just the sixth time in her career.Kostelic finished in 1 minute, 42.22 seconds for her 26th World Cup victory. She beat Austrians Kathrin Zettel by 1.33 seconds and Marlies Schild by 1.45.Kostelic insists she was not trying to make a statement leading to the Olympics, which begin Friday.
“I don’t do signals,” she said. “I’m not into revenge.”The U.S. contingent didn’t come close, with Lindsey Kildow taking 11th and Resi Stiegler 13th in an event that is one of the American team’s weakest disciplines this year.Still, the U.S. squad heads to Turin confident after a season with a lot of highlights. Kildow won two downhills and Julia Mancuso, a double bronze winner from the 2005 world championships, climbed the podium three times in the last two weeks.”This is the best it’s ever been,” team veteran Sarah Schleper said. “I consider these girls my best friends in the world,” Schleper said. “It all fits together – the coaching, the physiotherapist, the athletes.”Kostelic joined Austria’s Petra Kronberger, who won five different disciplines in a season in 1990-91. She considered skipping the slalom because of flu and high fever.
“I’m better, but I’m still pretty weak,” said Kostelic, who will head to a beach in Croatia to rest up for the Olympics.Kostelic was third after the first run but hugged the gates all the way down a fast and flat course on her second, picking up time at every split.The 19-year-old Zettel, who reached her 10th top-three finish this year, said she felt the pressure of matching Kostelic’s second run.”The news came that she had put down an extreme time,” Zettel said. “I had a very hard time the second run.”
Anja Paerson, expected to be Kostelic’s main rival in Turin, was the first-run leader. But the Swede skidded out about two-thirds down the slope after being the only skier close to matching Kostelic’s splits.Kostelic leads in the overall standings with 1,382 points to Paerson’s 1,121. She also took over the slalom lead after being tied with Schild, 460 to 420 points.Paerson showed she is also ready for the Olympics during the first two days of racing at the World Cup. She shared a giant slalom win with Maria Jose Rienda and was second to the Spaniard in another.Schild’s streak of three straight slalom wins ended but she was happy with her result since there hadn’t been a World Cup slalom in a month.”I was a little uncertain before the race, but now the confidence is back,” Schild said.
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