Janica Kostelic returns to World Cup slalom with historic victoryCroatia’s Janica Kostelic won her first World Cup race in nearly two years, charging through steady snow and choppy conditions to win the Aspen slalom a full 617 days since she last raced a World Cup in that event. A knee injury and hyper-thyroidism had knocked Kostelic out of competition for a season.
“I was not allowed to do any training,” said Kostelic after the race, discussing the surgery she had to remove her thyroid gland. “You have to rest for a little while, because the body has to get used to something that it doesn’t have anymore. When you start training again, you have to start training really slowly. The medications that I take right now, you have to be really careful about it. You have to take your blood all the time and see what’s the best dose for you. Because the problems are really tricky sometimes.”
Kostelic beat Anja Paerson of Sweden by more than a second Saturday in this season’s first World Cup slalom. Tanja Poutiainen of Finland was third, 1.32 seconds behind. It was a scrambled version of the previous day’s giant slalom podium. “They are Anja and Tanja,” joked Kostelic. “Maybe I should change my name so it rhymes with that. Maybe ‘Banja.'”
Kostelic was second headed into the second run, just 0.05 seconds behind Poutiainen, and used a near-flawless second run to beat Paerson by 1.27 seconds. Kostelic finished the two runs in 1 minute, 43.7 seconds, winning in just her third race since missing 19 months because of her knee injuries and thyroid problems.
It was also an excellent day for the Americans. Kristina Koznick finished sixth, while Julia Mancuso and Sarah Schleper were tenth and eleventh. Resi Stiegler was 16th, despite making several major mistakes in both runs. Mancuso had the second-fastest second run.
Kostelic was the world’s best female skier before being beset by injuries the past two years. A two-time World Cup overall champion and the only alpine skier to win four medals in one Olympic Games — three golds, one silver at Salt Lake City in 2002 — Kostelic had four knee surgeries in five months in 2003 and had to have her thyroid gland removed, causing her to miss all of last season.
She returned to finish eighth in the World Cup opener in Austria on October 23 and was third in the giant slalom Friday in Aspen. Kostelic downplayed her comeback after Friday’s race, but was clearly excited about her run on Saturday, raising her arms after crossing the finish line before slamming one of her poles into the snow.
Poutiainen, who won the giant slalom on Friday, was the only one with a chance to pass Kostelic, but she cut one gate too close and seemed to run out of gas through the final stretch.
Paerson, the reigning World Cup slalom and giant slalom champion, used a wild run to take the lead before Kostelic’s final trip down Aspen Mountain.
Trailing Poutiainen by .67 seconds after the first run, Paerson had to come out of her crouch to squeeze through a couple of gates near the top, had to make a quick adjustment on the final gate, then patted her heart and waved her hand as if to say “Whew!” after she crossed the finish line with the lead.
American Kristina Koznick finished sixth, 2.27 seconds behind Kostelic.
-Staff and wire reports
Nov. 27, 2004
1. Janica Kostelic, CRO 1:43.70
2. Anja Paerson, SWE 1:44.97
3. Tanja Poutiainen, FIN 1:45.02
4. Nicole Hosp, AUT 1:45.58
5. Christel Pascal, FRA 1:45.95
6. Kristina Koznick, USA 1:45.97
7. Nicole Gius, ITA 1:46.87
7. Annemarie Gerg, GER 1:46.87
7. Monika Bergmann-Schmuderer, GER 1:46.87
10. Julia Mancuso, USA 1:46.99
11. Sarah Schleper, USA 1:47.11
12. Veronika Zuzulova, SVK 1:47.14
13. Manuela Moelgg, ITA 1:47.28
14. Elisabeth Goergl, AUT 1:47.31
15. Line Viken, NOR 1:47.39
16. Resi Stiegler, USA 1:47.55
17. Maria Pietilae-Holmner, SWE 1:47.58
18. Ana Jelusic, CRO 1:47.64
19. Florine DeLeymarie, FRA 1:47.68
20. Martina Ertl, GER 1:47.75
21. Sabine Egger, AUT 1:47.76
22. Sarka Zahrobska, CZE 1:47.78
23. Henna Raita, FIN 1:47.84
24. Nika Fleiss, CRO 1:47.95
25. Karina Birkelund, NOR 1:48.48
26. Sophie Olofsson, FRA 1:48.59
27. Kathrin Zettel, AUT 1:50.62
other North Americans:
DNQ 2nd: Britt Janyk, CAN; Lindsey Kildow, Lauren Ross, Kaylin Richardson, Jessica Kelley, USA.
DNF 1st: Brigitte Acton, CAN
By Hank McKee
Aspen, Colo., women’s slalom, Nov. 27, 2004
1 Kostelic, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
2 Paerson, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
3 Poutiainen, Volkl//
4 Hosp, Volkl/Fischer/Marker
5 Pascal, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
6 Koznick, Volkl/Tecnica/Marker
7 Gius, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
7 Gerg, Head/Lange/Marker
7 Bergman, Volkl/Rexxam/Marker
10 Mancuso, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
Aspen SL 11/27/2004 is the third race of a 32 race women’s World Cup schedule (plus one combined). … It is the first of eight scheduled slaloms. … The top three finishers account for all but one of the nine women’s podium finishes so far this season.
It is the 20th career win for Janica Kostelic … the 17th slalom win. … Her first since 3/8/03 at Are. … The 2003 World Cup overall champion, Kostelic missed all of the 2004 season to injury and illness. … 31 of her 106 World Cup scoring finishes have been podium results. She was eighth at Solden GS and third at Aspen GS in her previous starts this season. … She is now ranked third in the overall standings with 192pts. She also won a slalom at Aspen 11/25/2000.
It is the 47th career World Cup podium finish for Anja Paerson. … It is her 45th career slalom podium. … Paerson won the last Aspen slalom 11/30/2002. … Paerson was first at Solden and 2nd in the 11/26 GS at Aspen previously this season and leads the World Cup standings with 260pts. … Paerson won the last previous slalom at Aspen 11/30/02.
It is the ninth career World Cup podium for Tanja Poutiainen (including a knock-out slalom at Sestriere in 2002). … three of those podiums have come this season in three races. … She was second at Solden and won the Aspen GS. … She is second in the World Cup standings with 240pts. …
It is the 31st career top six finish for Kristina Koznick and her second best result of the season after a fourth in the Solden opener. … Tenth matches Julia Mancuso’s third best result ever. … She has been fourth twice in DH at Altenmarkt 3/6/02 and in combined at Lenzerheide 12/22/02. … The result marks the third time she has finished 10th in a World Cup race the previous two a super G at Cortina last season and a slalom at Levi last season. … It is the 31st time Sarah Schleper has made the top 11. … It is just the 11th career scoring finish for Resi Stiegler and it is her sixth best result