| L-R: Silvan Zurbriggen, Bode Miller, and Ivica Kostelic |
Ivica Kostelic's silver medal added to the Olympic legacy of one of the great Alpine ski racing families.
Second behind Bode Miller in Sunday's super-combined, Kostelic got advice from his younger sister Janica on how to master a slalom course set by their father and coach, Ante.
Ivica Kostelic now has two Olympic silvers, closing the gap a little on Janica, who is the most successful woman Alpine racer in games history. She won four golds and two silvers before retiring in 2007.
"It feels awesome," the 30-year-old Croat said. "We've been together all of our lives. I think it's fair that we share this moment together as well."
He then had to defend his dad from suggestions that a little gate-setting trickery helped win the medal.
Kostelic's family ties were expected to be factor in the super-combi, which adds times from a downhill run and a slalom leg.
Race organizers held a lottery last month to decide which national team coaches would design the Olympic courses, and Croatia got rights to the super-combi's slalom.
Kostelic's rivals predicted Ante would set one of his typical tracks to challenge racers' brains as well as bodies.
"Dad's course certainly helped," said Kostelic, a decent downhiller but a slalom specialist. "I think slalom skiers for sure wouldn't have a great chance if the slalom course was simple. The setting was quite demanding, but not as demanding as it could be."
He placed ninth in the morning downhill, run over the full 3.1-kilometer (1.93-mile) Dave Murray course. He had 1.05 seconds to make up on leader Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway and was 0.29 slower than Miller, who stood seventh.
Kostelic was deep in tactical discussions with Janica in the chair lift carrying him to warm-ups for the medal run.
"We were just talking about simple details in the course," he later revealed.
With the leaders racing slalom in reverse order, he raced through his father's gates to post the fastest combined time ahead of Ted Ligety, the American who edged him for gold at the 2006 Turin Games when the event included two slalom runs.
Kostelic raised his arms before falling back on the snow in weary satisfaction.
Two racers later, an inspired Miller completed the slalom four-hundredths faster than Kostelic to create a 0.33-second cushion.
Soon, only super-G gold medalist Svindal was left, but he skied out after failing to handle what he called "a typical Kostelic gate."
Defending his dad's honor, Kostelic said it was "the only trick gate on the whole course."
"It's true that these kind of tricks make a race more interesting," Kostelic said. "This is the point where you need to switch on your thinking.
"I'm really sorry that Aksel made such a mistake. I would be a lot more happy if he finished the race."
Bronze medalist Silvan Zurbriggen of Switzerland had no issue with the family connection.
"That wasn't the difference today," Zurbriggen said. "Ivica is such a great skier that he can ski really fast on every course."
That Kostelic still skis fast at all is a surprise after his seventh career knee operation just two months ago. His incentive to return was building on the family's reputation.
"There's no better motivation than the Olympics," he said, struggling to describe the emotions he felt. "I don't have kids yet, so this is the top for me."
One day, maybe those kids can ask their grandpa Ante all about it.
Kostelic defends dad's trick course
vica Kostelic, who won Olympic silver in the men's super-combined event on Sunday, defended father and course setter Ante for putting in a "trick" gate in a thinking-man's slalom.
Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal, who led after the downhill section, missed out on a third Olympic medal when he skied out with less than a third of the slalom course remaining.
It was later claimed that Svindal had fallen victim to a typical Kostelic "trick" gate.
"I straddled the gates about 10 seconds before the finish line," Svindal said. "That kinds of sucks, but it happens."
Ivica Kostelic jumped to his father's defence, saying: "It was the only trick gate in the whole course. There wasn't many trick gates to remember.
"It's not the first time this has been said. I'm really sorry that Aksel made such a mistake, I would have been a lot more happy if he'd finished the race.
"But it's also true that these kind of tricks make the race more interesting. That's the point when you have your thinking head on.
"Slaloms today are often nothing but a gymnastic exercise: left, right, rhythm, vertical, left, right, rhythm, vertical."
But Ante Kostelic set courses that demanded a degree of consideration.
"You have to move, you have to ski, but you also have to think," said Ivica. "These innovations, I encourage them. The more innovations we have in slalom the more interesting it will be."
He added: "Dad's course certainly helped."
Switzerland's Silvan Zurbriggen claimed bronze in the event won by American Bode Miller and agreed with Kostelic that a testing slalom was more fun for all involved.
"I think it's good that we have to think in a slalom too," he said. "It makes it more interesting, and more difficult. You also have to make a spectacle for the people at home."
Zurbriggen also admitted that having one's father as a course setter could be an advantage but magnanimously added that Ivica deserved his silver medal.
"It could be an advantage sometimes, and sometimes not. It doesn't matter. Ivica is such a great skier, and he skied really fast," he said.
Source: http://wwos.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=1015471 Formatted for CROWN by Marko Puljiĉ
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