Paerson Wins Giant Slalom, Extends Lead

Paerson 02 22 04

ARE, Sweden, Feb. 22 2004 (AP by Stephan Nasstrom) -- Anja Paerson won her third straight giant slalom race of the season Sunday, extending her overall lead in the World Cup standings.

Paerson, in 10th place after the first run, had a combined time of 2 minutes, 15.64 seconds on the Olympia course and extended her overall lead to 123 points.

"It was my biggest win of the year," Paerson said. "My second run was technically just wonderful.

"In the first run, the visibility was bad and I didn't feel comfortable. I made a big mistake in the first turn and thought I was going out."

Spain's Maria Jose Rienda Contreras was second, 0.53 seconds back for her best finish in a giant slalom. Austria's Elisabeth Goergl finished third, 0.73 back.

Paerson has won 10 giant slaloms and slaloms this season, and every gate race this year.

"But I don't see myself as unbeatable," she said. "They're gaining on me and I need to work harder."

Paerson, who has 21 career World Cup victories, is four victories short of the single-season record set by Swiss ace Vreni Schneider in 1989.

"It would be really big to tie that record," Paerson said. "I'll do my best to make it."

Ingemar Stenmark set the men's single-season record of 13 victories more than two decades ago, and Hermann Maier tied it during the 2001 World Cup finals here.

Rienda Contreras had a faster time on the upper part of the second run, but made a mistake near the bottom and nearly hit a gate. The 10-year veteran of the World Cup circuit is second in the giant slalom standings with 289 points, well behind Paerson's 530.

Racing in Sweden was special for Paerson and her teammates.

"We only come to Sweden once a year and it's the most important race for us, to show the crowd and the sponsors that we're something to cheer on for," she said. "The crowd was fantastic and it was great that so many fans came out to watch the race."

Austria's Renate Goetschl, coming off a victory in the Super G on Saturday, finished 33rd in the opening run and failed to qualify for the second.

Copyright © 2004 The Associated Press