March 12, 2011 / 3:11 PM / in 8 years

Croatia's Kostelic wins overall World Cup

KVITFJELL, Norway (Reuters) - Ivica Kostelic became the first Croatian to win the men’s overall World Cup on Saturday after taking an unassailable lead in the standings with five races to go.

A 20th place in Saturday’s downhill at Kvitfjell was enough to put the 31-year-old 518 points clear of Switzerland’s Didier Cuche, who finished seventh.

A win in a World cup race is worth 100 points.

Kostelic, whose sister Janica won the overall women’s World Cup three times, won seven races this season, all in a stunning run in January, as he became the first slalom specialist to clinch the title since Benjamin Raich in 2006.

The overall World Cup is considered by many skiers to be more than prestigious than an Olympic or world championship gold medal as it is decided over the whole season and various disciplines.

Austria’s Michael Walchhofer won the race, his third victory in a downhill this season, one week before the 35-year-old’s retirement.

“I have been dreaming of this and fighting for this for years,” Kostelic, who also leads the slalom standings and is second in Super G, told reporters.

“The overall World Cup title is the greatest achievement you can reach in Alpine skiing.

“I grew up in respect of the all-rounders. My sister won it three times and that has been a big inspiration for me.

“I’m proud to have done it, being a slalom skier.”

Kostelic, a sometimes outspoken critic of skiing authorities and something of a traditionalist, added that it had become tougher for slalomists in the last few years.

“(1995 champion) Alberto Tomba was also a slalom skier but nowadays you need to score points in the speed events, you have to be a more complete skier than in his year.

“What I achieved in January is pretty unique, to win so many events in one month,” added Kostelic, who said he intended to go on and compete at the Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014.

Walchhofer covered the Olympiabakken course in one minute 45.92 seconds, beating his compatriot Klaus Kroell by 0.13 seconds, to go top of the downhill standings, leap-frogging previous leader Cuche.

Swiss outsider Beat Feuz, who stunned the rest of the field when he won Friday’s downhill, had another impressive run and finished third, 0.31 behind the winner.

Cuche’s unhappy day was complete when he was fined 5,000 Swiss francs ($5,377) and warned after an angry exchange with a race director over what the Swiss considered to be a dangerous jump in the downhill course.

Reporting by Patrick Lang; Editing by Brian Homewood

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