Kostelic Wins Wengen Slalom With Superb Second Run
WENGEN, SWITZERLAND – It was a masterful display of skiing in beyond slushy conditions on a sun-drenched afternoon in Wengen, much to the delight of the throngs of colorfully adorned and exuberant Croatian fans in attendance.
Ivica Kostelic continued his unbelievable run of success winning his fourth World Cup race in just 15 days. The 31-year-old from Zagreb easily overcame a 0.09 second deficit, storming past first run leader, Austria’s Marcel Hirscher to win Sunday’s slalom by the colossal margin of 0.93.
With Croatian fans going berserk down below, Kostelic entered the starthouse for his second run, following France’s Jean-Baptiste Grange and with only Hirscher left behind him.
“I heard that Jean-Baptiste Grange was leading and I didn’t have too much time to play with, but I didn’t want to make a mistake on the steeps so I took it a bit easy,” said Kostelic after the victory. “When I went from the steep, into the flats and rolls on the second part of the course, I really tried to push hard.”
His two-run winning time on the Männlichen piste was 1:45.28 coming on a course which deteriorated racer-by-racer in the bright, sunny, and unusually balmy conditions.
“There were ruts for sure, a little bit harder than in the combined but it helped me ski well here today,” said Kostelic referring to Friday afternoon’s slalom portion of the combined, a race which he also won.
Kostelic’s impressive second run time was 1.02 seconds faster than Hirscher and 0.96 ahead of Grange.
Hirscher, who also finished second to Kostelic last Sunday in Adelboden achieved the same result, while also climbing into second in the World Cup slalom standings behind the recently dominant Croatian.
“I wanted to win and the only thing I could do was to push it hard, but Ivica did as well,” said Hirscher. “I made a little mistake and kissed the snow, and I think everyone was breathing a little bit hard for me so I’m happy with second place.”
France’s Grange, third after the first run, 0.12 slower than Hirscher and 0.03 behind Kostelic, held his placing while battling through the 64 gates, despite a recent shoulder injury which occurred during a FIS race in Chamonix earlier this month. The 2009 World Cup slalom champion made the podium in third place, 0.99 seconds behind Kostelic.
“For me this was a victory, because I’m not 100% with the shoulder,” said Grange. “I’m very happy because it has not been easy and I’m just taking it race by race.”
Canada’s Michael Janyk enjoyed a lengthy stay in the leader’s box, after an excellent afternoon performance, which enabled him to move from 17th after the first run, to fourth and ultimately just 0.13 shy of the podium.
Austrian veteran Mario Matt blitzed to the fastest time of Sunday’s second run, 51.91, nearly a second better than Kostelic, vaulting him all the way from 23rd to fifth.
After the victory and podium celebation, Kostelic ventured to the large contingent of highly enthusiastic Croatian fans lining the finish area, shaking hands, posing for pictures and joining their festive celebration.
“Of course, I’m proud,” said Kostelic when asked about representing his nation in front of so many Croatian flags flying today in Wengen. “We are not a ski nation so it is nice to present your country this way in a sport where technology is really important. We have three ski resorts in Croatia so when you can beat the Austrians it makes you very proud.”
It was clearly a stellar week for the charismatic, Croatian skier, who also earned valuable World Cup points in Saturday’s Lauberhorn downhill finishing 12th, in addition to his slalom and super combined victories.
“To win here on the last day after nearly 10-minutes of tucking, I think is a good achievement,” he said referring to the two days of downhill training which preceded Saturday’s Lauberhorn race.
Kostelic, who finished fifth last season and fourth the year prior in the overall standings, needs to stay healthy with January’s busy race schedule if he hopes to remain atop the overall standings. Throughout his career, he has undergone numerous knee surgeries in addition to coping with sporadic back pain.
“Of course, we’re taking care of my back and knee as best as we can,” he said. “It is one of my priorities.”
Kostelic increased his overall World Cup lead over Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal to 215 points with his slalom victory. The Norwegian two-time overall champion Svindal, competed Sunday, but was unable to qualify among the top 30 for the second run and subsequently failed to earn any points.
The men’s Audi FIS Ski World Cup now heads east to Kitzbühel, Austria, for Friday’s super-G, Saturday’s Hahnenkamm downhill and Sunday’s traditional slalom.
Written by Brian Pinelli
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