Skiing: Winner Kostelic mourns at combined's 'funeral'

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The Independent Online

Croatia's Ivica Kostelic won the World Cup combined event at Kitzbuehel yesterday, then criticised plans to replace it with the new-style super-combined from next year.

"Unfortunately, this is a funeral for the classic combined," Kostelic said after beating Switzerland's Silvan Zurbriggen and Austria's Benjamin Raich into second and third places. "This is a great loss for skiing today. I feel everything is moving in the direction of the super-combined. I guess I will be part of the history here because I was able to catch the last train."

The Kitzbuehel event, combining Saturday's downhill and Sunday's two-leg slalom times, was this season's only surviving old-fashioned combined. Other venues have replaced it with a super-combined – held on a single day and consists of a special downhill and a single slalom run. Kostelic won silver in the old-style event at the 2006 Turin Olympics.

After winning the slalom at Wengen last week, the Croatian said the super-combined – introduced into the World Cup in 2005 in an attempt to encourage skiers to take part in a variety of disciplines – was an insult to slalom specialists and favoured speed. Zurbriggen echoed Kostelic's comments: "The slalom is always very easy," he said.

Kostelic, who has bounced back from arthroscopic knee surgery in December, finished seventh in both Saturday's downhill and Sunday's slalom for a combined time of three minutes 33.64 seconds. "Just to be a winner in Kitzbuehel is a different category of winning," said Kostelic. "There is a tennis tournament here but I think when you hear the word Kitzbuehel, you think of skiing."

Meanwhile, Bode Miller sat out the slalom at with a recurrence of the ankle injury which forced the twice former World Cup winner out of action earlier in the season.

"His ankle felt sore during Saturday's downhill and it was not feeling any better during warm-up this morning," a United States team official said. "He decided to give it a rest, hoping that he will be able to race at Schladming [tomorrow].

Miller, ninth in the downhill, injured the ankle during a US team volleyball game at Val D'Isere earlier this season and missed several meetings as a result.