Paerson edges Kostelic in season’s first slalom
ASPEN – The natural order has been restored to the women’s World Cup circuit. Anja Paerson is back on top.The Swedish great earned her 27th World Cup triumph Sunday, storming back from more than a second behind in the second run to edge Janica Kostelic by three-hundredths of a second in the season’s first women’s slalom.Paerson, third following the first of the two runs, sailed down the Aspen Mountain course under a clear blue sky in 46.71 seconds in the second run to win with a combined time of 1 minute, 36.01 seconds.Kostelic, winner of three gold medals for Croatia at the Salt Lake City Olympics, was second at 1:36.04. Kathrin Zettle of Austria, third in Saturday’s giant slalom, was third Sunday, too, in 1:36.44.
The competition wrapped up three days of racing at the Aspen Winternational, the only U.S. stop on the women’s World Cup circuit.Making up a one-second deficit is a daunting challenge for anyone, even Paerson, the two-time defending overall World Cup champion.”Normally you never take one second off,” she said. “I was just trying to make my run as quick and as charging as possible, and just try to go for it as much as I could.”U.S. skiers had a rough day on their home snow. Kristina Koznick, a six-time World Cup champion who plans to retire after this season, was 14th. Julia Mancuso was 19th, and Lindsey Kildow skied off course and finished last among the 30 skiers. One of America’s best slalom racers, Sarah Schleper, is out with a back injury.Koznick, who finished third twice in Aspen, was emotional contemplating her final run in a U.S. race.
“Yeah, I mean its pretty disappointing because I would have liked to have won a World Cup in the U.S.,” she said, tears in her eyes. “It’s pretty disappointing because I’ve been training really well and I feel really comfortable.”Paerson, second in Saturday’s giant slalom, celebrated her latest World Cup triumph with her trademark belly slide at the finish, although she acknowledged it was not one of her most impressive post-race efforts. She has won 15 World Cup slalom races.Her strong Aspen showing came after an awful week at Lake Louise, where she failed to score a World Cup point. She was pointing to this one because she knew how strong she was in slalom.”The hardest part has been waiting for the first slalom race to come on, because I knew I was in good shape,” she said.Kostelic was 0.84 seconds faster than her nearest competitor, Zettel, in the first round, but her second run time of 47.77 was more than a second slower than Paerson.
“The only thing I want to say about the second run is it was one of the easiest runs I’ve ever had in my life and I didn’t attack, which was very terrible,” Kostelic said. “I’m sure that it won’t happen again – very, very positive sure.”I feel stupid for myself. She was one second behind, which is a huge thing in skiing.”Kostelic, who underwent surgery on her right knee in June, won one of the two slaloms in Aspen last season. She has 21 World Cup titles and two overall championships in a career that has been disrupted by injury and illness. She underwent three knee operations and her thyroid was removed, missing the entire 2003-04 season.Martina Ertl-Renzff broke the World Cup record for most race appearances with 403. The 32-year-old German was presented with a bouquet at the end of her first run. The previous mark of 402 was held by Anita Wachter of Austria.”Yeah, that’s really many races. I’m proud of it,” Ertl-Renz said. “I’m so many years on the world circuit, in all events. It’s a special experience. What’s also important is I was for four years at the top of the World Cup. I’m still close to the podium. I hope for a podium place or a win this year.”
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