Serre Chevalier, France Dec. 6 (AP by Erica Bulman)--Janica Kostelic developed a tremendous appetite during the summer.
Starved for home cooking after her first year on the World Cup ski circuit, the 17-year-old Croat gained 33 pounds during the offseason. At the same time, it appears she has developed an even greater hunger to win.
After fourth-place finishes in the season-opening slalom at 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.
Kostelic will be looking for more victories when the circuit moves to Val d'Isere for a super-G and a giant slalom on Wednesday and Thursday.
``I know I can win more races,'' Kostelic said. ``I think I can win it (World Cup title), but not this year. I need more experience.''
Already this season, the Croatian teen-ager has top-10 finishes in all four alpine disciplines, including a seventh in the only downhill and a sixth in the super-G.
Despite her age, Kostelic's presence atop the standings does not come as a surprise.
In her rookie season last year, Kostelic became one of the youngest 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,'' Kostelic said after her second career win. ``It's like a dream.''
It hasn't always been easy for Kostelic. A dislike for western food, especially North American, combined with normal first-season nerves, saw Kostelic lose so much weight near the end of her rookie campaign that talk began to circulate that the teen-ager was suffering from anorexia.
``She was only 16 and she was lost without her mother,'' explained Ante Kostelic, the skier's coach and father. ``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,'' Kostelic said. ``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,'' Kostelic said 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 pegged a future World Cup champion.
``It's amazing how she's skiing,'' said Norway's Trine Bakke, who finished second to 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. It's incredible. She's only 17 years old. I admire her skiing. I should do more like her.''
Copyright © 1999 The Associated Press