Kostelic wins World Cup super-combined
CHAMONIX, France – Ivica Kostelic erased a massive deficit in the slalom leg to win a World Cup super combined race Sunday, clinching the discipline title and extending his lead in the overall standings with his seventh victory this month.
Kostelic earned his 18th career victory by finishing in a combined time of 2 minutes, 57.12 seconds, while fellow Croat Natko Zrncic-Dim was 0.51 seconds back in a career-best second and Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway was third, 0.53 behind.
“I have to say it’s one of the happiest days ever,” Kostelic said. “I secured the globe in the combined and I won the race from a pretty hopeless position. And my best friend is standing beside me on the podium. You can’t get better than that.”
Kostelic has won the three combined races held this season and has an unassailable lead in the discipline standings. He and Zrncic-Dim embraced after Svindal crossed the finish. Kostelic then delighted the 20,000 fans packed in the finish area by doing a backward somersault.
“Actually, I can feel it a bit in my leg,” he said, joking. “I’m not sure my gymnastic teacher would be too happy with my acrobatic jump today.”
Kostelic trailed Beat Feuz of Switzerland by 2.50 seconds after the downhill, but put down a superb slalom run on the Verte course.
“After the downhill I was pretty disappointed,” Kostelic said. “I told myself it will be very hard to win but it’s not impossible. The only advantage I had for the slalom was my number, which I used the best that I could. I usually ski with a 2 or 3 percent reserve for emergency cases. But today I just went all out.”
Svindal, who was trailing Feuz by only 0.08 seconds after the downhill, struggled midway through the slalom and never recovered his speed.
“I’m happy my third place,” Svindal said. “I had a chance to win after the downhill. I tried hard but my slalom was not good enough. But that’s how it is.”
Feuz, a former junior world champion, finished 10th, 1.67 behind Kostelic.
Kostelic, in the midst of a career-best run, earned 100 points Sunday to extend his lead in the overall standings to 475 points over Silvan Zurbriggen of Switzerland, who was fifth in the super-combined.
Svindal said Kostelic is now all but guaranteed to win the World Cup overall title.
“Now for the overall, it’s history,” Svindal said. “Maybe next year.”
But Kostelic warned against complacency and promised a tough fight until the end of the season.
“Today was a good example, in the downhill, of how things can really quickly change,” Kostelic said. “We saw Svindal really fast and I was slow. There is no relaxing. The advantage is substantial, but if someone catches the winning wave here, then again we’ll have a fight until the end. I’m not convinced that the fight is over.”
Zrncic-Dim was relieved to be on the podium after crashing several times earlier this season and going through a bit of sickness in Wengen. He also paid tribute to Kostelic.
“It’s very inspiring to ski with him,” Zrncic-Dim said. “He is a great guy and my good friend. I think I can learn a lot with him, he is giving me a lot of advice.”
Bode Miller, Benjamin Raich, and Carlo Janka were among the top skiers who skipped the Chamonix races ahead of the world championships that begin in Germany on Feb 8.
The men’s World Cup continues next week with a GS and a super-G scheduled for Hinterstoder, Austria.