Sun, Nov 30, 2003 - Page 23 News List

Anja Paerson still a giant on slalom

WOMEN'S WORLD CUP The Swede extended her lead for an easy first-place finish in the second race of the season for the racers

AP , PARK CITY, UTAH

Anja Paerson of Sweden passes a gate during her first run of the Women's FIS Alpine World Cup Giant Slalom at Park City ski resort in Park City, Utah, Friday. Paerson finished first at the event.

PHOTO: AFP

Whether it was steep or flat, Anja Paerson just kept on picking up time.

The defending World Cup giant slalom champion won her first race of the season Friday and did it with some panache, claiming her specialty event by the wide margin of 1.42 seconds.

Instead of slowing on the flatter section of C.B.'s Run that claimed much of the competition, Paerson extended her lead for an easy first-place finish in the second race of the women's World Cup season.

"I don't know. It's just in me. I don't train any special flats training," said the 22-year-old skier from Sweden. "I just go and I don't think. I just let my skis run. I cannot tell you why I'm the fastest one. I don't know what I'm doing right."

Whatever it was worked Friday as Paerson won her 12th World Cup race and fourth in GS. Paerson also has eight World Cup wins in the slalom, which she will compete in Saturday.

Paerson, also the gold medalist in last season's world championship, led by 0.28 seconds after the opening run, then left everybody behind in the afternoon. Paerson finished with runs of 1:12.83 and 1:14.31 for a combined 2:27.14, well ahead of Austrian Nicole Hosp's second-place time of 2:28.56.

"Today, OK I won with over a second, but that was my second run," Paerson said. "I did a really good second run. I don't think you can expect me to win with those margins this year,"

Hosp had a scary crash in the season opener last month in Soelden, Austria, but came out with only bruises. She was third after the first run Friday, then faded slightly in the second but still finished ahead of all but Paerson.

"I feel very well. I don't have any pain," Hosp said. "Today, it was very good for me."

Denise Karbon of Italy was third (2:28.65) and Sara Schleper was the top American, finishing ninth (2:29.28).

Paerson was the last skier to go in and came up with the second-best time of the second runs. She made a wide, sweeping turn at the finish and backed into the barrier before pumping her right fist when she saw the whopping time difference.

Paerson, who won the Olympic silver medal in GS and the slalom bronze in 2002, finished third in the opening event last month in Soelden. She was the seventh skier to start Friday and took an early lead that held up through the first run.

Maria Jose Rienda Contreras of Spain had the top second run of the day at 1:14.03 and held the lead for much of the afternoon until Sweden's Anna Ottosson briefly claimed it as the top finishers from the morning completed their day.

Schleper, who finished sixth at Park City a year ago, got her second top-10 finish of the season. She was seventh in Soelden.

"I'm just trying to build momentum here. If I'm consistent in the top 10 I know those podiums are going to come," Schleper said. "It's just a matter being consistent up here with the best."

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