ST. MORITZ, Switzerland Feb. 13, 2003 (AP by Nesha Starcevic)--Anja Paerson of Sweden easily won the giant slalom at the world championships Thursday, celebrating her victory with a customary belly flop in the finish area.
Denise Karbon of Italy won the silver medal and Allison Forsyth of Canada earned the bronze. Neither had ever won a race on the World Cup circuit.
Paerson gave Sweden its first gold of the championships, then slid through the snow in triumph.
"I didn't believe I would be standing here on the top," said Paerson, who comes from Taernaby, the same town as skiing great Ingemar Stenmark.
For the United States, Kristina Koznick was 12th and Caroline Lalive was 27th. Kirsten Clark and Sarah Schleper did not finish.
Paerson came into the championships riding a two-race winning streak in the giant slalom. She had the fastest runs in both heats and won by a whopping 1 minute, 55 seconds. Forsyth was 1.79 behind the winner.
Paerson covered the Engiadiana course in a combined time of 2:30.97. Counting a slalom in Maribor, Slovenia, three weeks ago, Paerson is riding a four-race winning streak.
Paerson attributed her sudden success in the giant slalom to a new approach.
"I think it was mostly a mental thing," she said. "My body is a bit higher now and I let the skis do most of the work. Before I used to do the work, but now I let my skis do most of the work."
Paerson won the bronze medal at the worlds two years ago and silver at the Olympics last year in Salt Lake City. She was slalom champion at the worlds and bronze medal winner at the Olympics.
The 21-year-old Swede has eight slalom wins on the World Cup circuit, but only two giant slalom triumphs, the two coming just before the world championships.
Karbon's previous best in four years on the World Cup circuit was third place in Austria just after Christmas.
"It's a very big surprise for me," said Karbon, who earned Italy's first medal of the championships.
"I knew that I was in good form, but I didn't really expect a medal," she said.
Forsyth's bronze was Canada's second medal at these worlds after the downhill gold by Melanie Turgeon.
"I've been training very hard the last weeks," Forsyth said. "I like the snow here."
Forsyth has three second-place finishes in her World Cup career, but had not done better than two eighth places this season. She was seventh at the Olympics.
"I am very, very happy to be part of the Canadian team, which is doing really well. Melanie's victory took the pressure off me, all I had to do was focus on doing my best skiing," she said.
Michaela Dorfmeister of Austria, the super giant slalom gold medalist, finished fourth, ahead of Tina Maze of Slovenia.
Olympic champion Janica Kostelic of Croatia hit a gate with her right hand and finished 13th. Kostelic clutched her hand and went to a hospital after the race for tests. She already was skiing on a painful right knee.
Croatian team officials said she also had a bruised shoulder but should be able to race Saturday's slalom, her strongest event. She won the combined event at these championships.
Karen Putzer, the World Cup giant slalom leader with two wins this season, finished sixth, ahead of another Italian, Manuela Moelgg.
Defending champion Sonja Nef of Switzerland was eighth, 2.31 seconds behind Paerson.
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