Friday, March 24, 2006

Raich, Kostelic claim the big World Cup globes

Winners crowned at Sweden finals


2006 Olympic giant slalom champion Julia Mancuso burns the final World Cup GS of the year at Are, Sweden last week. The U.S. Olympic Committee announced Tuesday that Mancuso is the February "Athlete of the Month." She outpolled Olympic figure skating silver medalist Sasha Cohen for the honor. Photo by Sven Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images

Austria's Benjamin Raich, 28, and Croatia's Janica Kostelic, 23, have been crowned the new World Cup overall champions after last week's World Cup Final at Are, Sweden.

Steady and consistent Raich, the 2006 Olympic giant slalom and slalom gold medalist, put a punctuation mark on his first-ever World Cup overall title by winning the St. Patrick's Day men's giant slalom at Are.

It was Raich's seventh win of a 2005-06 winter season during which he was on the podium 12 times. A 23-time World Cup race winner, Raich now has five World Cup globes—for winning overall and GS titles in 2006, GS and slalom titles in 2005, and slalom back in 2001.

Raich (1,410 points) overwhelmed second-place Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway (1,006) by over 400 points. Last March, U.S. racer Bode Miller (1,648) was a 194-point winner over runner-up Raich in final totals.

Although Miller was toppled from his perch, the U.S. Ski Team still had a claim to fame because third-place Miller, fourth-place Daron Rahlves and ninth-place Ted Ligety gave the Yanks the distinction of putting three men into the World Cup top 10 for the first time.

Meanwhile, Kostelic's third World Cup overall title to go with her 2001 and 2003 crystal globes was more impressive.

The 2006 Olympic combined gold medalist from Zagreb won the World Cup giant slalom finale March 18 at Are and broke the record of Sweden's Pernilla Wiberg for the number of points in a single season.

Kostelic ended the season with 1,970 points after the last of 36 races. Wiberg had 1,960 points in the 1996-97 season. The Croat needed to win the Are GS to break the record. And she did, by .63 seconds for her first GS win since the Dec. 21 GS in the Czech Republic.

"That's cool, right?" Kostelic said. "Maybe next year someone will say—10 more points and we'll beat Janica's record! It's good to be one of those people whose record has to be beaten. I'm on top. It's great."

Kostelic also won the slalom championship for the 2005-06 season, while Austria's Michaela Dorfmeister captured the season super giant slalom and downhill globes.

After losing the overall title by only three points to Sweden's Anja Paerson last March, Kostelic prevailed by 308 points over runner-up Paerson this time around. Paerson, 24, the two-time defending overall queen, still captured her sixth career World Cup globe by winning the GS season title.

Paerson finished the season on injured knees. She was scheduled to have arthroscopic surgery on both knees Thursday at Vail, Colo.

For the Americans, 21-year-old Lindsey Kildow of Vail had a breakthrough year. She moved up 153 points from sixth overall to fifth in the standings including a 154-point jump from 28th place to ninth in the final slalom standings. She was fourth in SG and second in DH.

Other crystal globe winners for the men were Italy's Giorgio Rocca in slalom, Aksel Lund Svindal in super giant slalom and Michael Walchhofer of Austria in downhill.

For the second straight year, the U.S. Ski Team finished second in the final overall Nations Cup standings.

Austria, which has led every year since it succeeded Switzerland in 1990, had 15,049 points to 6,221 for the second-place U.S. and 4,748 for third-place Italy. Breaking it down into men and women, it was Austria's men with 7,301 points to 3,179 for the U.S. and 3,017 for Italy, and 7,748 for Austria's women to 3,178 for Sweden and 3,042 for the U.S.

The U.S. Alpine Championships are the final event of the winter season March 25-30 at Sugarloaf, Me. Rahlves will be making his final competitive appearances for the Americans.

"It was a helluva good ride," said Rahlves at the finals.

Here are the top finishes and top American placings for the 2005-06 World Cup season:

Men's overall: 1—Benjamin Raich (Aust.) 1,410. 2—Aksel Lund Svindal (Nor.) 1,006. 3—Bode Miller 928. 4—Daron Rahlves 903. 9—Ted Ligety 636.

Men's downhill: 1—Michael Walchhofer (Aust.) 522. 2—Fritz Strobl (Aust.) 491. 3—Daron Rahlves 444. 5—Bode Miller 340. 24—Steve Nyman 86.

Men's super giant slalom: 1—Aksel Lund Svindal (Nor.) 284. 2—Hermann Maier (Aust.) 282. 3—Daron Rahlves 269. 10—Bode Miller 145.

Men's giant slalom: 1—Benjamin Raich (Aust.) 481. 2—Massimiliano Blardone (Italy) 442. 3—Fredrik Nyberg (Swe.) 314. 9—Bode Miller 198. 11—Daron Rahlves 190.

Men's slalom: 1—Giorgio Rocca (Italy) 547. 2—Kalle Palander (Fin.) 495. 3—Benjamin Raich (Aust.) 410. 4—Ted Ligety 396. 32—Bode Miller 45.

Women's overall: 1—Janica Kostelic (Croat.) 1,970. 2—Anja Paerson (Swe.) 1,662. 3—Michaela Dorfmeister (Aust.) 1,364. 4—Nicole Hosp (Aust.) 1,112. 5—Lindsey Kildow 1,067. 8—Julia Mancuso 755. 23—Kirsten Clark 293.

Women's downhill: 1—Michaela Dorfmeister (Aust.) 498. 2—Lindsey Kildow 410. 3—Renate Goetschl (Aust.) 315. 11—Julia Mancuso 176.

Women's super giant slalom: 1—Michaela Dorfmeister (Aust.) 626. 2—Alexandra Meissnitzer (Aust.) 437. 3—Nadia Styger (Switz.) 360. 4—Lindsey Kildow 326. 6—Julia Mancuso 239.

Women's giant slalom: 1—Anja Paerson (Swe.) 586. 2—Maria Jose Rienda (Spain) 537. 3—Janica Kostelic (Croat.) 464. 11—Julia Mancuso 212. 28—Kristina Koznick 48.

Women's slalom: 1—Janica Kostelic (Croat.) 740. 2—Marlies Schild (Aust.) 550. 3—Anja Paerson (Swe.) 485. 9—Lindsey Kildow 214. 13—Kristina Koznick 180.




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