Kostelic wins men’s World Cup slalom at Wengen | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Kostelic wins men’s World Cup slalom at Wengen

Graham Dunbar, The Associated Press

WENGEN, Switzerland – Ivica Kostelic of Croatia extended his runaway start to 2011, winning a men’s World Cup slalom Sunday on the Lauberhorn course.

Kostelic had a combined two-run time of 1 minute, 45.28 seconds to stretch his lead in the World Cup overall and slalom standings.

He also won the super-combined here Friday as part of a career-best 15-day stretch that includes four World Cup victories, plus second- and fifth-place finishes.

“For sure, it’s the best weekend of my career and I’m very happy that it happened in Wengen,” Kostelic said. “It’s a beautiful thing to be here.”

Marcel Hirscher of Austria led after the first run, but finished 0.93 seconds behind in second place. Jean-Baptiste Grange of France was third, trailing Kostelic by 0.99.

“You really had to attack the second run,” said Kostelic, who was 1.02 faster than Hirscher in the second leg.

David Chodounsky was the only U.S. skier to advance out of the first run, finishing a career best 19th. Bode Miller went out after straddling the third gate and Ted Ligety spilled midway down. Will Brandenburg misjudged his exit from the start house and straddled the first gate.

Chodounsky, who learned to ski on the same hill as childhood friend Lindsey Vonn, used the sixth-fastest time of the afternoon run to finish 2.23 behind Kostelic.

“Second run I had a great start position, good snow, so I just tried to take full advantage of it,” Chodounsky said.

The 26-year-old Minnesotan earned his first World Cup points in a Jan. 6 slalom in Zagreb, Croatia, where he was 20th.

“Scoring in Zagreb got me started. Then I could tell myself I could charge and the nervousness goes away,” he said.

Chodounsky is now targeting a starting spot at the world championships in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, next month.

“We’re still qualifying for world championships, but that’s definitely a goal to make it there,” he said.

Chodounsky grew up skiing with Vonn at Buck Hill, near the Twin Cities, and would like to emulate some of the three-time overall World Cup champion’s success.

“She blew up and I’m trying to follow behind,” he said.

Kostelic started the year by winning the invitation-only parallel slalom event at Munich. He added the slalom at nearby Adelboden a week ago, also over Hirscher.

The 31-year-old Kostelic has earned 100 World Cup points for each victory and has a 215-point lead over Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal, who has suggested Kostelic is on track to win the seasonlong title.

“If I keep skiing like this then I am (the favorite),” said Kostelic, whose sister Janica won three women’s overall trophies before retiring.

The victory Sunday gave Kostelic his 15th career World Cup win, with 11 in his specialist discipline. It was also his third slalom title at Wengen, including last year.

Hirscher was content with a 13th career podium finish, which at Wengen means a helicopter ride past the Eiger and Jungfrau mountains to reach the news conference in a village school.

“It’s great to be on the podium. The helicopter flight here is so amazing,” said the 21-year-old Austrian, who trails Kostelic by 77 points in the slalom standings.

Kostelic’s sparkling form on back-to-back Swiss weekends coincided with warm weather creating soft race surfaces. The modern Alpine era has seen courses injected with water to create slick, icy tracks.

Kostelic is renowned for his expertise racing on slushy, spring-like snow, and prides himself on continuing to train when others have started offseason vacations.

“I just skied pretty well in the ruts, and in the super-combined (slalom) as well,” said Kostelic, referring to his runs on the Jungfrau track that adjoins Wengen’s fabled Lauberhorn downhill course.

“This is what the old World Cup was in (Ingemar) Stenmark’s time,” he added, referring to the Swedish great who won a record 86 World Cup races from 1974-89. “We saw the guys fighting against the ruts. Ordinary skiers and tourists can recognize themselves right there because this is the snow they are skiing on.

“Since 2003, we’ve had ice, ice, ice. Sometimes it’s ice-rink ice. … You have to be more of a natural skier in soft snow.”

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