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Paerson Wins; Americans Place 3 in Top 10 at Slalom


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ZWIESEL, Germany, Feb 9 2004 (AP by Roy Kammerer) _ Two races, two wins, two titles. It was a good World Cup weekend for Anja Paerson.

It wasn’t too bad for the Americans, either.

Paerson dominated the weekend, however, wrapping up the giant slalom title on Saturday and following up with the slalom title on Sunday. She ran away from the competition in both races.

On Sunday, the Swede finished her two heats in a combined time of 1 minute, 29.58 seconds, 0.44 ahead of Monika Bergmann-Schmuderer of Germany.

“I don’t know what to feel – it’s overwhelming,” Paerson said. “I wasn’t trying to win any cups this year, just focus on each race.”

Paerson stretched her lead in the overall World Cup standings over Austria’s Renate Goetschl. Her eighth win this year gave the Swede 1,220 points, with her rival at 1,108.

Veronika Zuzulova was third in Sunday’s race at 1:30.26, the first time the Slovakian has done better than 10th in the discipline and giving her country its first trip to a World Cup podium.

American Sarah Schleper was fourth, although she nearly pulled out of the race with a bad back that had been bothering her for two weeks.

“I couldn’t get around the course today, it hurt so bad,” Schleper said. “Then I just went in and warmed up, stretched, things like that.”

By finishing fourth, Schleper had her best performance this season and the American women had a World Cup day they hadn’t seen in years, placing three in the top 10.

Amid blowing snow and dark, threatening skies, Schleper finished in 1:30.64, with Resi Stiegler eighth for her best career result and Kristina Koznick 10th.

“I don’t think that’s happened in a long time,” Schleper said. “It was tough conditions, but it was an awesome weekend – our whole game plan worked.”

Paerson was never really threatened in Sunday’s slalom, holding a big lead after the first heat and winning for the eighth time this season.

“Paerson is just the measure of all things right now, but the rest of us will keep trying,” said Bergmann-Schmuderer, who posted her best result of the season.

Paerson has beaten the competition by more than a second at times while winning five of six races and wrapping up the title with three races left.

Her performance drew praise from Swedish great Ingemar Stenmark. Both skiers come from the resort of Tarneby.

“She’s unbelievable,” Stenmark said. “I’m glad she wasn’t skiing in my time because she would have been faster than me.”

Paerson dominated her rivals Saturday to wrap up the giant slalom title, winning by nearly two seconds at the steep Arber World Cup slope.

The next women’s World Cup races will be held Feb. 21-22 on Paerson’s home slope in Aare, Sweden.

Copyright © 2004 The Associated Press