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Kostelic siblings make Alpine skiing history

Posted: Monday, January 06, 2003

KRANJSKA GORA, Slovenia -- This was a day like no other in skiing for the Kostelic family. Ivica and Janica Kostelic became the first brother and sister to win World Cup Alpine races on the same day.

Janica won a slalom Sunday on her 21st birthday in Bormio, Italy, then watched on TV with her father as her brother captured a slalom in Slovenia less than an hour later.

''It's a great day for our family,'' Janica said. ''It's a strange record indeed, but I'm pleased with it. What Ivica has done means a lot because we've spoken for years about winning a race on the same day.

''And it's great it happened on my birthday. He couldn't have given me a better present.''

Croatia Prime Minister Ivica Racan sent congratulatory letters to both, praising their ''spirit and motivation.''

Several thousand Croatian fans made the trip to neighboring Slovenia and Italy. Back home, hundreds of thousands of Croats watched on TV. In cafes and pubs, teenagers exchanged high-fives.

 

Croatia's Ivica Kostelic does push-ups on his skis after winning the men's World Cup slalom in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, Sunday, Jan. 5, 2003.

AP Photo/Aldo Martinuzzi

The Kostelics are icons in Croatia, their rise from poverty an inspiration in the country of 4.5 million, which is emerging from the ravages of war after declaring independence from Yugoslavia in 1991.

Last year, the Kostelics won on the same weekend at the World Cup finals in Flachau, Austria.

Fifteen sets of siblings have won races since the start of the World Cup almost 40 years ago, but none ever on the same day. The closest were the Mahre brothers of the United States.

On Feb. 8, 1983, at St. Anton, Austria, Steve Mahre won a slalom while Phil took the combined, an event computed from performances in the downhill and the slalom.

Ivica had a total time of 1 minute, 44.71 seconds on a rutted course to pad his lead in the slalom standings. It was his second straight victory following a special elimination event in Sestrieres, Italy, three weeks ago.

''I didn't watch her race because I was preparing for my race,'' he said. ''But we had a guy on the team watching the TV and telling us the times over the radio. When I heard Janica had won by two seconds I was jumping up and down in joy.''

Austria's Rainer Schoenfelder was runner-up in 1:44.98 and Olympic slalom champion Jean-Pierre Vidal of France was third in 1:45.03. Tom Rothrock was the fastest U.S. skier, placing 12th. Americans Bode Miller and Erik Schlopy went out in the opening leg.

In Bormio, Janica finished 2.08 seconds ahead of Austria's Elisabeth Goergl for her fifth victory this season. It was the biggest margin of victory in a women's slalom since 1973, when France's Danielle Debernard won by 2.12 seconds in Japan.

Sweden's Anja Paerson was third and Kristina Koznick was the top American in 10th.

Kostelic enjoyed a quick celebration after crossing the finish line as organizers delivered her a birthday cake and a bottle of sparkling wine.

Then she rushed to the press center, along with her father-coach Ante, to watch live TV coverage of the second run in Slovenia. Janica and her father hugged following a victory by 23-year-old Ivica.

Janica clearly has been the more dominant skier. She is the overall World Cup leader and in Salt Lake City became the first Alpine skier to capture four medals in a single Olympics.

On Sunday, she bounced back from a spill a day earlier in a giant slalom that deprived her of a certain top-three finish. In the slalom, she finished in 1:36.74 and increased her lead in the discipline's standings to 530 points, nearly double that of her closest rival.

''I was a bit tense and less than confident following yesterday's spill,'' she said. ''I skied an almost perfect race, although perfection does not exist in skiing.''

The next time she and her brother have a chance to win on the same day is Jan. 19. The men race a slalom in Wengen, Switzerland, and the women a giant slalom in Cortina, Italy.



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