ASPEN, Colo. Nov. 29, 2004 (AP by John Marshall) - After her latest win, Finland's Tanja Poutiainen just shrugged and raised her eyebrows with each question. Not even she could explain why she's off to such a good start this season. Poutiainen won for the second time in three races at Aspen Mountain, beating Italy's Manuela Moelgg and American Kristina Koznick by more than a second in a World Cup slalom on Sunday.
It was the fourth straight top-3 finish for Poutiainen, who had never reached the podium more than twice in any previous season.
``What can I say?'' Poutiainen said. ``Four races and four times on the podium is great. It seems that whatever I do right now, it will turn out in a good way.''
After winning the giant slalom on Friday and finishing third in the first slalom race Saturday, Poutiainen overcame a couple of loose spots on her final run Sunday to win again in the World Cup's only U.S. stop for women.
Trailing Croatia's Janica Kostelic by .44 seconds after the first run, Poutiainen cut it close on a couple of gates early in her second run and barely caught the last few before crossing the finish line in a two-run total of 1 minute, 50.77 seconds. ``I had in my mind yesterday's second run when I went too straight,'' Poutiainen said. ``I just tried to learn from that.''
Koznick struggled last year after dislocating her hip early in the season, but a renewed outlook this season has her excited about skiing again.
She opened with a 24th in the giant slalom on Friday, improved to sixth in the slalom the next day and finished 1.37 seconds behind Poutiainen on Sunday. ``This is the most excited I've been about skiing in a long time,'' Koznick said. ``I'm very happy.''
As for Kostelic, her chances of making it two straight wins ended early in the second run when she went sliding off the course. Kostelic won Saturday after missing nearly two years with a thyroid problem and four knee surgeries. ``It's kind of logical knowing the circumstances I'm in coming into this season,'' Kostelic said. ``Winning two times in two days or being three days on the podium, it would be too much even for me.''
Moelgg earned her highest World Cup finish by gaining confidence as the weekend progressed.
She didn't finish the giant slalom on Friday, then was 13th in the first slalom race. Starting Sunday's second run in eighth, Moelgg moved up to second by dropping her time by more than a half-second from the first run, finishing 1.21 seconds behind Poutiainen.
``My confidence improved with each run,'' Moelgg said through a translator. ``I felt good on the first run, so I really attacked the second run.''
More than a foot of snow fell overnight and was still coming down when the racers started their first run. It made for a tough round.
With visibility low and the course choppy, 21 racers didn't finish the first run, including Sweden's Anja Paerson, who was second in the giant slalom on Friday and second again in Saturday's slalom. The reigning World Cup slalom and giant slalom champion got going too fast near the top and ran off the course after missing a turn.
``This has been one of the most difficult courses for the ladies, especially in these conditions,'' Poutiainen said.
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