Sun, Mar 12, 2006 - Page 22 News List

Kostelic overcomes tough conditions

WORLD CUP SKIING Janica Kostelic of Croatia had the best time on both of her Slalom runs despite battling a snow storm. Anja Paerson of Sweden finished second

AP , LEVI, FINLANDAP, SHIGA KOGEN, JAPANAP, LILLEHAMMER, NORWAY

Janica Kostelic of Croatia skis to the best time in the first run of the women's slalom in Levi, Finland, on Friday.

PHOTO: AFP

Janica Kostelic skied two near-flawless runs to win a World Cup slalom race on Friday, closing on the season title.

Racing on an illuminated course in driving snow, the Croatian was fastest in both runs and had a combined time of 1 minute, 37.52 seconds down Levi's Black course for her seventh World Cup win of the season.

"I'm really happy about my first run," Kostelic said. ``I only made one tiny mistake. Otherwise I skied very fast.

"The slope was bad [in the second run]. When I came to the first gate I was scared, but then I just tried to concentrate and the rest of the race went well. The result was good, but my health is getting worse every day."

Kostelic also won the last slalom before the Olympics, where a variety of ailments from intestinal problems to a rapid pulse rate cut short a record-breaking performance. Her win in the combined in the Turin Games made her the most successful female racer in Olympic history with four career gold medals. She missed the Olympic slalom.

Olympic champion Anja Paerson of Sweden, skiing with sore knees, finished 1.47 seconds behind in second.

Kostelic also increased her lead in the overall standings over Paerson, the two-time defending World Cup champion.

With five races left -- including another slalom at Levi on Saturday -- Kostelic leads Paerson 1,640 points to 1,366 points.

Michaela Dorfmeister, the two-time Olympic champion from Austria and a speed specialist, is third with 1,228 points. She did not qualify for the second run.

Kathrin Zettel of Austria claimed the last podium spot, 2.65 back. Lindsey Kildow of the US was fourth, 2.91 behind.

"I had big problems in the second run," Zettel said. "I made one big mistake and couldn't believe that I managed third."

Olympic bronze medalist Marlies Schild, Kostelic's biggest rival for the slalom title, skied out in the second run after coming second in the opening run.

The Austrian now trails Kostelic by 140 points (560-420) in the slalom standings. Zettel is third (370), while Paerson is fourth (325), but she can't catch Kostelic.

Olympic silver medalist Nicole Hosp of Austria, fifth in the slalom standings, skied out in the first run.

Levi is situated north of the Arctic Circle in Finnish Lapland, and is the northernmost venue on the World Cup circuit.

Austria's Benjamin Raich finished fourth in yesterday's men's Alpine slalom race, wrapping up his first overall World Cup title.

Raich, who won Friday's slalom here, had a time of 1 minute, 40.95 seconds on the Mount Yakebitai course.

"It was a perfect day," Raich said. "Fourth place is good. The overall World Cup title is fixed and all the training and hard work has paid off."

Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal, the only skier with a mathematical chance of catching Raich in the standings, finished tied for eighth place.

Kalle Palander of Finland and Austrian Reinfried Herbst tied for first with times of 1:40.60. Canada's Thomas Grandi was third in 1:40.93.

Raich has 1,310 points after yesterday's race. Svindal has 810 points but needed to win all five remaining events to catch Raich.

With yesterday's win, Palander held on to second place in the slalom standings with 495 points. Italy's Giorgio Rocca, who tied for eighth place yesterday, is first with 547 points.

Olympic champion Thomas Morgenstern won a World Cup large hill competition, beating runner-up Bjorn Einar Romoren.

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