St. Moritz, Switzerland, Dec. 17 (AP by Erica Bulman)--With World Cup skiing's newest star sidelined by a knee injury, Italy's Isolde Kostner heads into this weekend's speed races intent on regaining the overall lead.
A speed-specialist who already has won in the downhill and super-G this season, Kostner hopes to take advantage of the weekend's downhill doubleheader and super-G and replace 17-year-old Croatian sensation Janica Kostelic atop the overall standings.
``Some girls race in all four disciplines,'' Kostner said. ``So it leaves me at a disadvantage. I have to do well in the speed events if I want to get ahead.''
Kostelic sustained ``a complex knee injury'' during a training run Thursday and will be out for the rest of the season.
Going into the weekend races, Kostelic leads after 10 events. Her victory in the slalom at Sestriere, Italy, on Sunday gave her a total of 420 points.
Kostner is third with 319 points, 23 behind Austria's Michaela Dorfmeister, a speed specialist who has shown more prowess in technical giant slalom this season than the downhill or super-G.
``My confidence is sky high,'' said Kostner, who won the season-opening downhill at Lake Louise, a super-G at Val d'Isere, and finished third in a super-G in Canada.
``I was surprised to find myself start the season so strongly because usually I start doing well in January,'' the 1996 and 1997 world super-G champion said. ``My results prove to me I can do well in St. Moritz.''
Kostner, who has five career World Cup downhill victories and two super-G wins, has reemerged this season after a prolonged slump.
In contrast, collecting two surprising victories and a third in the giant slalom this season, Dorfmeister has been unable to find the velocity which led her to a silver medal in the downhill and a bronze in the super-G at the world championships last season.
The Austrian _ who was runner-up in the World Cup super-G standings and third in the downhill rankings last season _ this year finished 11th in a super-G at Val d'Isere and 20th in another at Lake Louise.
Dorfmeister _ who has replaced injured World Cup overall champion Alexandra Meissnitzer as Austria's leader _ fared little better in the season's only downhill, placing 16th.
``I think it might be my equipment and maybe my attitude, too,'' said Dorfmeister, winner of the super-G at St. Moritz last year and runner-up in the downhill. ``I think I haven't been aggressive enough and I haven't taken enough risks.
``I'll have to fine-tune those disciplines in the races here to repeat my good results of last year.''
Kostner's greatest worry this weekend is Germany's Hilde Gerg, runner-up behind the Italian in the Lake Louise downhill and second in both super-Gs.
Having missed the victory all three times by .10 seconds or less, Gerg is hungry.
``Hilde Gerg is my toughest opponent in the speed disciplines,'' Kostner said. ``She is second behind me in both the downhill and super-G rankings.
``There are other skiers I must be careful of, but I must keep my eye on her especially.''
Austria's Renate Goetschl, the World Cup downhill champion, could also figure among the principle contenders, having sparkled at the Swiss alpine resort last year. Goetschl won the downhill here last year before finishing second the super-G.
Copyright (c) 1999 The Associated Press