ST. MORITZ, Switzerland Feb. 10, 2003 (AP by Nesha Starcevic)--Janica Kostelic won the combined at the world championships Monday despite needing painkillers for her ailing knee.
This was the first gold medal at a world championships for the Croatian, a three-time Olympic champion and winner of the overall World Cup title.
"It's true, I missed that medal," she Kostelic, who rallied to victory on an excellent second slalom run. "Now I got it and I'm happy. Everything is easier now."
Nicole Hosp of Austria won the silver medal and Marlies Oester of Switzerland earned the bronze.
For the United States, Julia Mancuso was seventh while Resi Stiegler was 10th and Caroline Lalive 13th.
Kostelic won the combined at the Olympics last year, plus two more golds and a silver. She became the first Alpine skier to win four medals at a single Olympics.
"I never paid much attention to the world championships," she said. "So now I can say I have Olympic medals, World Cup and world championship."
The 21-year-old Croatian clutched her right knee after crossing the finish line. Later, she sat at the edge of the finish area, hardly celebrating her gold medal.
"It's not a big injury but it was painful," she said. "I was trying not to think about it. I was really tired, thinking: 'When will this day finally end?"'
Kostelic had a major knee injury in St. Moritz three years ago. She was on painkillers Monday after hurting her knee in practice. The injury apparently worsened during the morning downhill, where she finished 12th, 0.67 seconds off the pace.
Kostelic, the dominant slalom skier the past few seasons, finished with a total time of 2 minutes, 41.63 seconds.
She was 0.17 behind Hosp after the first slalom run but raced a virtually error-free second leg to win by 0.06. Oester was 2.20 behind.
In the combined, times from the downhill and the two slalom runs are added.
Kostelic has 18 victories on the World Cup circuit, including an eight-race slalom streak. She won four races this season and one combined before the worlds.
She said she would rest before deciding whether to race in Friday's giant slalom.
"My knee is hurting me pretty much," she said. "We'll see how it's going to be tomorrow."
Marlies Schild of Austria finished fourth, followed by two Germans _ Maria Riesch and defending champion Martina Ertl.
Austria's Christine Sponring, a silver medalist at the worlds two years ago, was fifth after the downhill but missed a gate in the first slalom run and was eliminated.
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