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Kostelic claims overall title, Nef wins final giant slalom

Posted: Sun March 11, 2001 at 9:45 a.m EST

SportsTicker Contributing Editor

ARE, Sweden (Ticker) -- Janica Kostelic clinched the prestigious World Cup overall crystal globe Sunday when defending champion Renate Goetschl crashed out in the season's final giant slalom.

Switzerland's Sonja Nef collected her fifth straight victory in the discipline.

Nef, who had already secured the giant slalom title on the strength of five previous victories, confirmed her status as the world's No. 1 giant slalom skier, delivering two blistering runs for a combined winning time of two minutes, 34.50 seconds. It was Nef's second victory in as many days, the Swiss having claimed Saturday's slalom race as well.

"I'm so happy right now, this is the way you want to end a season," said the 28-year-old Nef, who has plagued by knee problems throughout her career, needing surgery five times. "It makes you start thinking about next year already."

An ailing Kostelic, suffering from a stomach virus and a bad knee, finished a distant 21st, 5.28 seconds adrift. But the result was inconsequential following Goetschl's tumble in the opening leg.

Kostelic had entered the race with a commanding 67-point lead over the Austrian, who could only win the title if she finished among the top-two and her Croatian rival failed to score any points at all.

Looking edgy, Goetschl finally succumbed to nerves, losing an edge and crashing out. Devastated, the Austrian stood immobile, staring down at the snow for several minutes after her spill.

"It was so hard to see Renate fall like that," Kostelic said. "I wouldn't wish something like that on anyone.

"I'm happy to be finished this season, it's been hard on my body and mind. But I think I showed by skiing this weekend that this is what a champion has to go through. I proved I am a champion, I think."

The overall title capped a remarkable comeback for the Croat, who was sidelined for almost a year after ripping ligaments in her right knee in a downhill training crash in St. Moritz, Switzerland, in December, 1999.

The young skier stunned the ski world upon her return, sweeping eight straight victories in the slalom on the way to finishing the season with a total 1,256 points in the overall standings. Goetschl finished runnerup with 1,189, while Regine Cavagnoud of France was third with 1,105.

At just 19 years of age, Kostelic became the youngest women's overall World Cup champion since 1971 when Annemarie Moser-Proell of Austria claimed the title at 17.

Kostelic had arrived at the season finals with a slim 39-point lead but quickly pulled away as Goetschl fell in Thursday's downhill, Saturday's slalom and Sunday's giant slalom.

The defending champion also struggled in Friday's super-G, one of her stronger suits, where she finished a mediocre eighth, behind Kostelic in seventh.

Nef topped the final giant slalom rankings 676 points, while Sweden's Anja Paerson's second place pushed her into second with 408. Michaela Dorfmeister of Austria was third on 341.

Two Swedish skiers worked home fans into a frenzy, covering the rest of the podium, with Paerson crossing runnerup in 2:36.29 and Ylva Nowen placing third a wafer-thin .01 later.

Canada's Alison Forsyth was fourth, two seconds behind. American Sarah Schleper was 16th, four seconds off.

© 2003 SportsTicker Enterprises, LP

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