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Paerson Rallies to Win Giant Slalom

MARIBOR, Slovenia, Jan. 24 2004 (AP by Eugene Brcic) -- World champion Anja Paerson of Sweden recorded her second giant slalom victory of the season Saturday and returned to first place in the overall World Cup standings.

Paerson, second after the first leg, was timed in a combined 2 minutes, 18.27 seconds _ 0.98 seconds ahead of Michaela Dorfmeister of Austria, the 2000 winner. Maria Jose Contreras of Spain matched her best career result by coming in third, 1.23 seconds behind.

This was Paerson's fifth victory in Maribor and the 17th of her career.

"As soon as I cross the border I get a special feeling and I feel very comfortable in this area," she said.

The skiers enjoyed good conditions on a clear day above Pohorje mountain, a backdrop for Slovenia's second-largest city.

Kirsten Clark was the top U.S. skier in 18th place, followed by teammates Libby Ludlow (19th), Sarah Schleper (21st) and Caroline Lalive (27th).

Martina Ertl of Germany and Sonja Nef of Switzerland, both two-time winners at Maribor, crashed. Nicole Hosp of Austria, who led the giant slalom standings coming into the race, also took a nasty spill.

Dorfmeister was slowed by an ear infection and finished second for the fifth time this season. A giant slalom champion in 2000 and overall champion in 2002, Dorfmeister has not won a giant slalom in two years. Her previous best this season was 11th.

Paerson leads the overall standings with 898 points. She overtook Austria's Renate Goetschl, who finished 11th and is at 893. Germany's Hilde Gerg is third at 768.

"It's starting to get closer to the end of the season and it's always popping up in you're head," Paerson said, referring to the overall crown.

The Swede also leads the giant slalom standings (330), followed by Hosp (260).

Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press

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