Kostelic Wins 5th Slalom Title of Season

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Women's Slalom Podium 030903

ARE, Sweden (AP)--Janica Kostelic had already wrapped up the overall World Cup title before Saturday's race. So she took care of some unfinished business, winning at a place where she'd never performed well.

Kostelic won her fifth World Cup slalom of the season, beating Anja Paerson by more than half a second.

Kostelic, the Olympic and world champion from Croatia, had a combined two-run total of 1 minute, 45.84 seconds on a course set by her father and coach, Ante Kostelic.

"It was really nice to finally get a good result here," said Kostelic, who had never finished in the top 10 on the course, the northernmost on the World Cup circuit. "I gave everything I had. This hill is not so challenging, so you really must attack."

Sarah Schleper was the top American finisher, taking 26th with a time of 1:51.68. Kristina Koznick, who got her first World Cup win in a slalom here five years ago, had one of the fastest split times on the upper part of the course in the first run before she skied out and was disqualified.

Kostelic led by .55 seconds after the first run and increased it to .63 seconds after the second run. Conditions were much better on the second run in the early afternoon, when Kostelic started last.

"I'm glad the course held up so much better in the second run," Kostelic said. "It was bumpy, and my skis were not holding onto snow in the first."

Paerson, who won the giant slalom here Thursday for her first World Cup win on home snow, was second. More important, she moved into the same spot in the overall standings.

Kostelic, who clinched the overall title Thursday, has also secured the World Cup slalom title this season. One slalom race remain on the schedule in the World Cup finals, at Lillehammer, Norway, next week.

"When the season started, I never thought I'd be in the top three," Paerson said. "We're five girls fighting for second overall, so it's going to be tough next week in Lillehammer."

Monika Bergmann of Germany was third Saturday, 1.74 seconds behind, and Nicole Gius of France was fourth, 2.35 seconds back.

Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press