Kostelic expects fight for alpine overall title
Ivica Kostelic does not regard himself a dominating force on the World Cup circuit despite his superiority last season that earned him a first overall title.
The 31-year-old Croat all-rounder topped the final standings by 400 points ahead of second-place Didier Cuche.
"There are no dominating persons. Last year was kind of different as it has always been a fight between more guys," said Kostelic on Friday.
Former champion Aksel Lund Svindal said earlier this week that Kostelic is the strong favourite to retain the crown.
"To me, there is just one boss right now, and that's Kostelic," the Norwegian skier said. "If I and the others can prevent him from winning all there is to win in January like he did last year, I think we have a fair chance."
Kostelic, speaking in his typical modest manner, played down his chances of a second straight title.
"It's nice from Aksel to say that but on the men's side, there is not one favourite," he said. "It just depends on which point of the season you peak with your form, and if you are able to build on that advantage. There is no one boss, there are a lot of bosses on the World Cup."
Last year, Kostelic managed to build on his peak when he won a record seven World Cup races within one month, setting up an insurmountable lead in the overall standings. He also won the awards for best slalom and super-combined racer.
It was a season that changed Kostelic's career for good.
"As soon as I got this globe in my hands and went back to the hotel into my room, that was very emotional for me," Kostelic said. "I was alone, it was me facing my dream … When you have reached something you have worked for many, many years, it gives you a good feeling. Not just for the season but for your whole life."
Kostelic said that the success has taken much pressure away from him for the new season, which kicks off Sunday with a giant slalom.
"It's a good booster for results," he said. "When you have reached your goal, everything else looks like a bonus. You are just more relaxed and you don't worry yourself with too much wishing."
Robbie Dixon of Whistler, B.C., and Jean-Philippe Roy of Ste-Flavie, Que., return to the circuit after sitting out the second half of last season due to injury. Dustin Cook of Lac Sainte Marie, Que., is also set to compete Sunday,
Kostelic's career has been marred by injuries. He had to quit the downhill and super-G races for several years, but has now become a contender in all five disciplines and even won his first super-G race in Kitzbuehel in January.
"I was always trying to be a complete skier, try to compete in all the events," said Kostelic, who admitted that staying healthy has been one of the key elements behind his extraordinary season.
Another reason was the role played by his sister and former three-time women's World Cup champion Janica in his support team.
"She has always been an important part," he said. "For me it was unusual not to have Janica with me for some years when she was taking a break. Last year it just felt like the old days again — me, my dad [Ante] and sister. It feels a lot better. Of course, she's a great skier and she always offers some advice."
Kostelic missed part of his off-season preparations due to surgery on his right knee, which kept him sidelined from April to July.
"Since then, it has been the usual preparations," Kostelic said. "My slalom is not yet on the level I want but otherwise I am ready for it."