Zwiesel, Germany Feb. 7, 2004 — Sweden's Anja Paerson won a rain-delayed giant slalom Saturday by nearly two seconds, reclaimed the World Cup points lead and clinched the women's GS title for the season. Sarah Schleper (Vail, CO) — battling a painful back ailment and hoping not to race — moved up five spots on the final run to finish fifth and Jessica Kelley (Starksboro, VT) earned her first World Cup points in 27th place.
Caroline Lalive (Steamboat Springs, CO) was third in the first run but straddled a gate on her second run and skied out. Julia Mancuso (Olympic Valley, CA) also qualified for the second run but crashed out. Rain delayed the start of each run, pushing back the final run by 20 minutes in the Arber region, near the Czech border.
Paerson, who hails from the legendary Ingemar Stenmark's hometown of Tarnaby, led the first run and won with a two-run time of 2:17.80 with Slovenian Tina Maze second in 2:19.78 with Renate Goetschl of Austria third, another .07 farther back. It's Paerson's eighth win of the season, her third in GS, as she pulled past Goetschl by 12 points.
"I think one of the reasons I did well," Schleper said, "was because I had another focus (instead of her sore back). I saw the rain and I thought, 'Please let it downpour.' I didn't want to race. And in the start, I was talking to Denise (Karbon — Italy) and I asked, 'Do you think they'll start it?'
"There was delay after delay — the gates blew down the hill and they had to replace them with stronger gates. And then the finish line blew down...and it got foggy. So, they brought in blue dye and they dyed the top of the course. I didn't think they were gonna race...and then Anja went."
Schleper said her back started to bother her a month ago in Megeve, France, and it troubled her during slalom training. "I wasn't worried about my result. I didn't have any expectation because I'd missed the last three days of training," she said, adding, "and, really, I would have much rather been sixth if 'Liner' (Lalive) had come down and been on the podium..."
The visit to the Arber region, near the Czech border, concludes Sunday with a slalom. "The conditions have been miserable but the organizers have done such a good job making the best of everything," Schleper said. "You want to race because they've worked so hard."