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Hungry Kostelic develops mighty appetite

Janica Kostelic developed a vigorous appetite over the summer.

Janica Kostelic developed a vigorous appetite over the summer.

Starved for home cooking after her first year on the World Cup ski circuit, the 17-year-old Croat packed on 33 pounds during the off-season and at the same time appears to have developed an even greater hunger to win races.

After fourth place finishes in the season-opening slalom in Copper Mountain and in a giant slalom on Saturday, Kostelic finally made it to the top step of the podium on Sunday, moving her to the top of the World Cup standings.

And now that she's developed a taste for victory, she'll be looking for more when the circuit moves to Val d'Isere for a super-G and giant slalom on Wednesday and Thursday.

"I know I can win more races," said Kostelic. "I think I can win it (World Cup title) but not this year...I need more experience."

The Croatian teenager's modesty, however, may soon be eclipsed by her ability.

Already this season she has posted top-10 finishes in all four alpine disciplines, including a seventh in the only downhill and a sixth in the super-G.

Despite her tender years, Kostelic's presence atop the standings does not come as a surprise.

In her rookie season last year, Kostelic became one of the youngest ever World Cup winners with her victory in the combined event in St. Anton less than two weeks after her 17th birthday.

She also added a pair of third places finishes to her resume along with 11 top-10 results, cementing her status as one of the World Cup's brightest young stars.

"It feels really good," laughed Kostelic, after collecting her second career win. "It's like a dream."

Despite her success, Kostelic admits that she found it difficult to adapt to life on the White Circus.

A dislike for western food, especially North American, combined with the usual first-season nerves, saw Kostelic lose so much weight near the end of her rookie campaign that talk began to circulate that the teenager was suffering from anorexia.

"She was only 16 and she was lost without her mother," explained the skier's coach and father Ante Kostelic. "She wouldn't eat but not so much because of the pressure but because she didn't like the food."

It was only when Kostelic returned home in the spring that she began to regain the lost pounds - anticipating another drop in her weight this season.

"It was difficult last year," said Kostelic. "I didn't know how things worked and my head was psychologically shaky. Now I know how it works and it's better.

"I did put some weight back on," said Kostelic with a smile. "I think it's because I didn't train so much this summer because of injuries."

Showing as much potential in the speed events as in the technical disciplines, Kostelic has already been widely pegged as a future World Cup champion.

"It's amazing how she's skiing," said Norway's Trine Bakke, who finished runner-up behind Kostelic in Sunday's slalom. "She showed in other races this season that she could do it. It wouldn't be long.

"She lets her skis go like no one else," said Bakke, fourth in the World Cup slalom standings last year. "It's incredible. She's only 17 years old. I admire her skiing. I should do more like her."