Riesch Wins First Career Slalom

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LEVI, Finland March 1, 2004 (AP by Stephan Nasstrom) - Germany's Maria Riesch won the first World Cup slalom of her career, nearly falling midway down the second run Sunday in a race held north of the Arctic Circle.

Riesch finished in 1 minute, 43.75 seconds, beating Austria's Elisabeth Goergl by 0.32 seconds on a day when the temperature reached 9 below zero. Martina Ertl of Germany was third, 0.96 behind, and Kristina Koznick of the United States finished fourth, 0.99 back. Anja Paerson of Sweden skied out on the steep part with only three gates left. It was the first slalom she failed to finish since December 2002.

Riesch, who led after the first run, lost her balance on the steep part of the course but recovered nicely. Her previous best in the slalom was third in Saturday's race on the same hill.

Last month, the 19-year-old German won her first two World Cup races, a downhill and a super giant slalom at Haus Im Ennstal, Austria. Riesch moved to 12th in the slalom standings and remained sixth in the overall standings. Her previous best result in the slalom was 13th place. ``I didn't even dream about winning in slalom,'' she said.

Renate Goetschl again failed to qualify for the second run. The Austrian, who scores most of her points in speed races, trails Paerson by 173 points in the overall standings.

Going into the last four races in each discipline in March at the World Cup finals at Sestriere, Italy, Paerson leads Goetschl 1,381 points to 1,208. ``I can ski out in all three races in Sestriere,'' Paerson said. ``But if I don't win the overall, I'll finish a proud runner-up.''