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Best Skier on the Planet Wins A Gold Again
Croatian supporters cheer theirskiers during the women's slalom at the Alpine Ski World Championships in St.Moritz, Switzerland, Saturday, Feb. 15, 2003. A large contingent of Croat skifans were attending Saturday's women's slalom where Croatia'sJanica Kostelic is favourite to take the gold medal.(AP Photo/Keystone, Gaetan Bally)
Austria's Marlies Schild, silver, Croatia'sJanica Kostelic, gold, and Austria's Nicole Hosp, bronze, from left to right,stand on the podium during the flower ceremony for the women's slalom at theWorld Alpine Ski Championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland, Saturday, Feb.15,2003. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)
- Feb 15 12:32 PM ET
Kostelic Crowned Queen of St. Moritz
Sat February 15, 2003 09:03 AM ET
By Julia Ferguson
St. MORITZ, Switzerland (Reuters) - Triple Olympic champion Janica Kostelic stormed to her second gold medal at the Alpine skiing world championships on Saturday to underline her status as the most gifted slalom racer of her generation.
The 21-year-old all rounder from Croatia, leading after the first leg, pulled off another clean and dynamic charge down the sun-drenched Engiadina course to clock a combined time of one minute 39.55 seconds.
Austrian Marlies Schild captured silver, a gaping 0.63 seconds behind Kostelic, with compatriot Nicole Hosp taking bronze on one minute 40.46 seconds for her second medal at her first world championships.
"I feel really great. Usually I used to say that world championships are not really important for me, but now when I see how it's going and everything I'm really happy with what I've done," a jubilant Kostelic said.
"I really like gold medals a lot," the double St. Moritz champion, who clinched gold in the combined, added.
The two-leg race was a thrilling spectacle to the very end. Swede Anja Paerson, a pre-race favorite, threw down the gauntlet with a blistering second run that propelled her way into the lead after lagging in 15th place, 1.6 seconds behind Kostelic.
The extrovert Paerson, gold medallist in the giant slalom, had been bidding to become the first woman to successfully defend a slalom world title since German Christl Cranz 65 years ago at Engelberg, Switzerland.
Her time held until the 19-year-old Hosp, silver medallist in the combined and lying third after the first run, held her nerve and overtook the Swede.
Schild then grabbed the lead before the formidable Kostelic eclipsed all despite racing with a sore shoulder and pushed Paerson into the unpopular spot of fourth, 1.03 seconds adrift of the winning pace.
The pigtailed Kostelic came to this swanky Swiss resort without a previous medal at the bi-annual championships. She leaves St. Moritz as the most decorated female skier from the five events.
Kostelic, runaway leader in the overall World Cup standings and the first skier to capture four Alpine medals at a single Olympic Games at Salt Lake City, has won four of the season's seven races, with Paerson securing the remaining three.
"My shoulder was painful especially at the start, I had a lot of trouble starting, but I just wanted to put it on the side," Kostelic said.
"If Anja would have had a good first run and then that perfect second run, then I probably wouldn't have won," the Croat said of Paerson's top second-leg time of 49.66 seconds on the course set by her father Anders.
The strong showing by Austria's young slalom racers is further proof, if needed, of the mighty Alpine nation's depth of talent in the dangerous sport. It was their first medal in the women's slalom for decade.
"I'm pretty speechless and am absolutely over the moon," said Schild, who has never won on the World Cup, but who was tipped by Kostelic's father at the start of the season as being Janica's closest rival.
"This is compensation for the combined," the 21-year-old added in reference to just missing out on a medal in that event.
Team mate Hosp, the most consistent racer among the women's team this season, was typically cool before both runs. "I was very relaxed because I already had my medal," she said.
With only the men's slalom on Sunday left, the two helped Austria tighten their stranglehold on the medals table with a total of nine from nine events, three ahead of the United States.
Fellow Alpine nation France, by contrast, has had a miserable time at this competition. One of their last-gasp medal contenders, slalom World Cup champion and Olympic silver medallist Laure Pequegnot, finished a disappointing seventh.
Germany is also without a medal, but unlike France, has scant chance of a podium finisher in the final men's slalom race as not a single racer is ranked in the top 15 slalom standings.