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Youth is Served: Kostelic Wins World Cup Overall Title

Youth is Served: Kostelic Wins World Cup Overall Title

Features
By Stephan Nasstrom/Associated Press
posted: 03/12/2001

Are, Sweden March 11, 2001 (AP)-- Jana Kostelic, Croatia's 19-year-old skiing sensation, became the second youngest woman to win the overall World Cup title.

She skied cautiously Sunday in the giant slalom finale because of a sore knee and finished 21st. But she captured the title when Renate Goetschl of Austria skied off the course in the first run. The race was won by Sonja Nef of Switzerland, winner of Saturday's slalom.

``I was happy but also sorry for Renate because I know how she feels,'' Kostelic said. ``It was a pretty hard time for her. She was unlucky.''

Until Kostelic, the youngest woman to win the overall title was 17-year-old Austrian Annemarie Moser-Proell in 1971.

Benjamin Raich of Austria won the last men's slalom and captured the season title in that discipline. He finished .19 seconds ahead of teammate Mario Matt.

Heinz Schilchegger, another Austrian and the only racer who had a chance to catch Raich for the slalom title, wound up ninth.

Kostelic didn't realize until the last few weeks that she could win the overall title.

``I really didn't think about it before because I didn't want to put pressure on myself,'' she said. ``But second and third would have been a big thing for me because I just came back from injury.''

She fell during a race in Austria before the World Cup finals, straining her shoulder and bruising her face and knee. This season, coming back from a knee injury, she won eight straight slalom races before her streak ended Saturday.

Kostelic led Goetschl by 67 points going into the last race. For Goetschl to retain the overall title, she would have had to finish second, with Kostelic not scoring any points.

Goetschl had bad luck in these World Cup finals, not finishing the downhill, skiing out in the slalom and finishing in eighth in the super-G.

Nef capped an excellent weekend by winning the giant slalom ahead of Swedes Anja Paerson and Ylva Nowen after posting the fastest times in each run.

Nef had a combined time of 2 minutes, 34.50 seconds down the Olympia course. It was her fifth straight GS victory and sixth this winter. She has 11 World Cup wins in her career.

``This is fantastic because I've had so many mishaps, injuries and bad luck the past few years,'' said Nef, who had surgery six times in the last eight years.

Last month, Nef also won the GS gold medal in the world championships.

Paerson, the world slalom champion, was 1.79 behind. Nowen, a former World Cup slalom champ, trailed Nef by 1.80 as she recorded a personal best in the GS.

Kostelic remained at 1,256 points in the overall standings. Goetschl had 1,189 and third-placed Regine Cavagnoud of France 1,105.

Nef topped the final GS standings with 676 points. Paerson moved to second with 408. Michaela Dorfmeister of Austria was third with 341.

Raich had a combined time of 1:47.99 in the men's slalom. Third went to France's Sebastien Amiez in 1:48.31 _ his best finish of the season and .13 seconds behind Matt.

This was the third slalom win of the season for Raich, who has nine for in his career. Last month, he was runner-up behind Matt in the world championships.

``This win was better than the silver medal in St. Anton,'' Raich said. ``I wasn't nervous.''

Raich had 545 points to lead the slalom standings. Schilchegger had 414 and Matt 406.

Erik Schlopy of the United States, who matched his career best with a second in Saturday's GS, did not finish the first run.

The biggest winner in the World Cup finals was Hermann Maier. He won Saturday's giant slalom and tied Ingemar Stenmark's 22-year-old record of 13 World Cup victories in a season.

Copyright (c) 2000 The Associated Press

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