Another great win and overall lead for Ivica Kostelic at Adelboden

09 January 2011 13:48

After a thrilling battle with the course conditions and a group of determined Austrians, Ivica Kostelic celebrated his first season victory in a ‘Classic’ World Cup race at Adelboden beating three very aggressive Austrians after two impressive runs. The Croatian slalom artist finished 26/100 of a second ahead of Marcel Hirscher, the winner at Val d’Isère, while Reinfried Herbst came in 3rd at 1,29 seconds.

Two-time slalom World Champion Mario Matt achieved a strong comeback at the top with his 4th place after starting the first run in 43rd position! Canada’s Michael Janyk finally scored his first points this season with his promising 5th place ahead of Germany Felix Neureuther. Andre Myhrer, the super winner at Zagreb on Thursday was a distant 16th this time.

Switzerland’s Silvan Zurbriggen didn’t manage to improve his slalom form after his disappointing show at Zagreb last week and had to be content with a more modest 10th place.

Kostelic, 3rd at Levi, in Finland, and 2nd in Zagreb, took over the lead in both the slalom and the overall standings prior the next key races at nearby Wengen, where, weather permitting, a Super-combined, a downhill and a slalom are planned during the weekend.

First world Cup points for Ivica in December 2000

Ten years ago, a young little-known Croatian racer scored his first World Cup points at Sestrière, finishing 21st in the night slalom won by Norway’s Olympic champion Hans Petter Buraas. He added a few more points in two other races at Wengen and Schladming and ended the overall World Cup standings in 107th position, far from the winner Hermann Maier.

Yet that season was a huge success for him – and not only because his sister Janica, coming back from a gruelling knee injury sustained in a terrible crash at St. Moritz the previous season, managed to beat all the established favorites to clinch her first overall title.

In November 1999, the skier from Zagreb had suffered a bad crash in a Super-G at Beaver Creek, Colorado, severely damaging his knee. He needed much time to find back his form afterwards. A month later, it was the turn of Janica to hurt herself at St. Moritz after winning her first slaloms at Serre Chevalier and Sestriere - so both were happy to achieve such a promising comeback in 2001.

The following winters were marked by tough moments for both and incredible highlights achieved by the siblings including their first gold medal win in slalom at St. Moritz in 2003 and victories on the same day in January 2003 – Janica at Bormio and Ivica at Kranjska Gora! Then Janica stepped down in 2006 after clinching another Olympic title at Sestriere and her third overall crystal globe., so all the interest of their sports fanatic country moved to her older brother.

Ivica’s main goal

Since ever, Ivica’s main goal has been to become an complete skier able to excel in all specialities, yet his knee injuries at the beginning of his career forced him to focus on slalom when he returned on the tour. He set an impressive record at his first victory at Aspen in November 2001, a few days after his 22nd birthday, as he has started the first run with bib 64!

Later on in March, he captured the slalom World Cup title after a fierce battle against Bode Miller – after Janica’s amazing Olympic hat-trick at Salt Lake City.

After a series of up-and-down-seasons and three encouraging Olympic silver medals in 2006 and 2010 in combined and slalom, Ivica is finally where he has dreamed for year to be at that period of the season – in the ‘hot seat’ as leader of the overall World Cup standings. His latest impressive triumph at Adelboden – his 13th on the World Cup tour – propelled him in the lead with a total of 504 points – 71 more than Saturday’s giant slalom winner Aksel Lund Svindal from Norway, and 84 more than Switzerland’s Silvan Zurbriggen.

The season is still long

Except a series of amazing performances in the coming weeks by Austria’s veteran Benjamin Raich or Switzerland’s defending overall champion Carlo Janka, who did well in Saturday’s first giant slalom run, the final winner in March should belong to this group of three outstanding skiers.

“The season is still long and a lot of things can still happen but for sure it’s better to be in my position now than behind with a delay of hundred or two hundred points,” he told the press with a grin. “I’ll do my best to defend my chances in the coming months but without losing my main focus which is to ski each time as well and intensively as possible,” Ivica also explained at the press conference.

“I feel strong and in charge for the moment, my recent win at Munich gave me much momentum and I’m having a lot of fun right now,” added the Croat who spent more time last summer with diving and relaxing on the Adriatic coast than training in the gym or on snow. In past years, he was very tense which often created aching health problems such as strong back pains. In February 2009, he could not compete at the FIS Worlds at Val d’Isère because of his bad back!

“I enjoy competing on traditional slopes as this one here at Adelboden where so many spectators who really appreciate ski racing are encouraging all the racers,” Kostelic also said. “I was lucky to wear bib number one this morning and I was able to make the best out of it on that very demanding course set by that German trainer. It was a technically very interesting course which perfectly suited me.”

“The second run was different yet I had to give my best as Hirscher did a great job there. I watched him going down through the first gates and I knew that I also had to go for it. He was attacking hard. I even saw his tracks on the last turns and I was amazed to see how he managed to keep on curving so well in the final gates. It was an exciting battle which gives me much energy.”

Kostelic is looking forward with even more excitement to the next weekend of racing at Wengen where he already won the slalom twice. “It’s a very special place, the mountains are so beautiful and I like the entire atmosphere there. I would be happy to do better than in recent years in the Super-combined but the downhill is not so good for me with all its gliding sections. But I will just do my best as usual without thinking about the points.”

Ivica, who is travelling with his own group of trainers which include his dad Ante, also receives crucial advises of his successful sister who has been on his side for a few years now. “Janica is a true expert, she knows what it means to move at a certain level and her inside information are always great,” he also commented after the race. “I’ll never be as relaxed as she was – she was born with that gift – but I have learned to be extremely focused. It helps me a lot now.”


Contributed by PkL