SOELDEN, Austria — Ivica Kostelic doesn’t consider himself a dominating force on the World Cup circuit despite earning his 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,” Kostelic said Friday. “Last year was kind of different as it has always been a fight between more guys.”
Former champion Aksel Lund Svindal said this week that Kostelic is the strong favorite 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 favorite,” 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 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.
“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 the success has taken pressure away from him this season, which kicks off Sunday with a giant slalom.
“When you have reached your goal, everything else looks like a bonus,” he said. “You are just more relaxed and you don’t worry yourself with too much wishing.”
Kostelic has dealt with numerous injuries during his career. He had to stop competing in the downhill and super-G races for several years, but became a contender in all five disciplines. He 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 was key to his extraordinary season.
His sister, three-time World Cup champion Janica Kostelic, has been a pivital part of his support team. She retired in 2007 after dealing with chronic back and knee injuries.
“She has always been an important part,” he said. “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 offseason preparations because of 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.”