Kostelic treats alpine worlds as ski vacation

Croatian skier Ivica Kostelic, the leader in the overall World Cup standings, is sticking with his policy of using the world championships in Garmisch-Partkenkirchen, Germany, as a mid-season vacation.

Overall World Cup leader Ivica Kostelic is sticking with his policy of using the world championships in Garmisch-Partkenkirchen, Germany, as a mid-season vacation.

"The priority for me is World Cup and, since most of my colleagues in World Cup have had a break and skipped some races, I could use this time at the world championships for a break or training," the Croatian told The Associated Press late Monday, on the eve of the championships, where he will compete in only a select few races.

After winning seven races in January, Kostelic holds a commanding 324-point lead over Swiss rival Didier Cuche in the World Cup standings and appears destined to join his younger sister Janica, who won three titles, as an overall winner.

Kostelic won the slalom way back at the 2003 worlds in St. Moritz, Switzerland, but has never finished higher than fourth in the overall World Cup standings. He sat out all of his races at the last worlds in Val d'Isere, France, two years ago to rest a sore back.

"I've said it before a long time ago — the world championships are not my priority," Kostelic said. "Especially in this situation, where I have a good shot at the [overall title], so I'll try to adapt my program to the World Cup.

"I think [the overall] is the greatest prize that a skier can win. I was already a world champion before, so I have that title and this is what I don't have yet and I really want it.

"It's the biggest prize I can possibly imagine."

At the worlds, Kostelic will race the super-G that opens the men's competition Wednesday, then will skip the downhill Saturday. He's still to decide whether he'll enter the super-combined, in which he would be a favorite, and the giant slalom.

"I'm completely sure that I will not race the downhill and maybe we will decide, eventually, I might skip one more discipline," he said. "Super-G I'm racing for sure and slalom I'm racing, for sure.

"The rest I don't know."

Kostelic finished second to Erik Guay in the super-G at World Cup finals last year in Garmisch and likes the Kandahar speed course.

"I think it suits me quite well," Kostelic said. "What is also quite important here is the skis that you have.

"There are over 20 seconds of flats and it's really important to have fast skis. Otherwise, it's a quite technically demanding course."

Still, Kostelic is picking Cuche to defend his super-G title.

"It depends on course setting, but I would say the first favorite is Cuche," Kostelic said.

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