Skiing: Kostelic wins World Cup slalom at Wengen
AP Sports Writer
WENGEN, Switzerland — Ivica Kostelic won a World Cup slalom on the Jungfrau course for his first victory of the season today, dropping to his knees and kissing the snow after arriving in the finish area.
Kostelic maintained his first-leg lead for a two-run time of 1 minute, 40.34 seconds to collect his 10th career World Cup victory.
"I was nervous because I've never lost a race I was leading," the 30-year-old Croat said. "It's not easy holding a lead ... and I knew I was going for victory."
The 30-year-old Croat returned to action Jan. 6, less than four weeks after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. The 2002 World Cup slalom champion is also troubled by constant back pain.
Andre Myhrer of Sweden was 0.29 back in second and Austria's Reinfried Herbst trailed Kostelic by 0.51 in third.
Ted Ligety finished eighth and Jimmy Cochran was 12th for the U.S.
Bode Miller skied out in the top half and was among 22 of 69 racers who failed to finish the first run, including two-time world champion Mario Matt of Austria and Manfred Moelgg of Italy, the 2008 World Cup slalom champion.
Herbst extended his lead in the World Cup slalom standings over Julien Lizeroux of France, who placed fifth after winning last week at Adelboden, Switzerland.
Benjamin Raich of Austria finished fourth and closed within 18 points of overall leader Carlo Janka of Switzerland, who has 757 points.
Janka watched the race on television at home in Obersaxen after winning the classic Lauberhorn downhill on Saturday.
Kostelic finished second in the season-opening slalom at Levi, Finland, in November but elected for surgery after racing in Val d'Isere, France. He has returned to form with an impressive series of races in Switzerland over the past nine days.
Kostelic skied well in the first run of Adelboden's giant slalom, which was abandoned because of thick fog, then finished third behind Lizeroux in slalom the next day.
He was sixth behind Miller in Wengen's tough super-combined on Friday, then placed 20th in the demanding Lauberhorn downhill, his weakest discipline.
"I'm surprised that my knee is still holding up pretty well," said Kostelic, who has had seven operations on his right knee and another on his left. "The doctors who went inside said they never saw a knee look so good after so many traumas."
Myhrer was fourth after the morning run, but skied the bottom half of the second run superbly to make the podium. It was his first top-three World Cup finish since winning a slalom in the 2007 season at Beaver Creek, Colo.
"I knew I was in good shape but I skied out in the last three slaloms," the 27-year-old Swede said. "It's good finally to have a result."