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Paerson Wins First DH, Makes History

February 26, 2005



SAN SICARIO, Italy (AP by Andrew Dampf)--Sweden's Anja Paerson became the second female skier in history to win World Cup races in all four disciplines in a season with her first downhill victory Saturday.

Paerson, who increased her overall World Cup lead, was followed by Croatia's Janica Kostelic and Germany's Hilde Gerg.

Paerson began racing all four disciplines only last season, when she won the overall World Cup title.

``It's come so fast this year,'' she said. ``It's maybe my biggest victory. Every race I've won is special, but when I look back on my career, one of the biggest things will be today.''

Paerson had a winning time of 1 minute, 52.86 seconds, finishing 0.24 seconds ahead of Kostelic and 0.98 ahead of Gerg. The top North Americans were Canadian Emily Brydon (fifth) and Americans Lindsey Kildow (seventh) and Julia Mancuso (ninth).

``I could feel myself slowing down in the soft snow,'' Kildow said. ``That's what everyone was saying before the race: 'Stay on the track.'''

Paerson matched the feat set by Austria's Petra Kronberger in 1990-91. Kronberger also won a combined race that season, giving her a fifth victory in an event combining downhill and slalom results.

Paerson will have a chance to win a combined Sunday in the final race this weekend on the course that will be used at next year's

Turin Olympics. Paerson inaugurated the course by winning a World Cup super giant slalom for the first time on Friday.

Originally a technical specialist who excelled only in slalom and giant slalom, Paerson won a slalom on Jan. 23 in Maribor, Slovenia, and captured the season-opening giant slalom in Soelden, Austria, on Oct. 23. Each of her four World Cup victories this season have come in different disciplines.

``It's something I dreamed about when I was young, especially coming from Sweden, where it's tougher (to be a downhiller),'' said Paerson, whose home country is known more for slalom skiers, such as Ingemar Stenmark.

Paerson leads the overall standings with 1,161 points, followed by Kostelic with 1,078.

Sweden's Pernilla Wiberg is the only other woman to have won races in all four disciplines, although she did it over several seasons. In December, Bode Miller joined Marc Girardelli as the only male skiers to capture races in all four events in one winter.

``When I saw him win all the races, I felt inspired,'' Paerson said. ``I thought maybe I could do it.''

Austria's Renate Goetschl finished eighth and her lead on Gerg in the downhill standings narrowed to 32 points with one downhill remaining, the season-ending World Cup finals next month in Lenzerheide, Switzerland.

With victories worth 100 points, Michaela Dorfmeister of Austria (75 points behind Goetschl) and Kildow (83 back) still have a mathematical chance of winning the downhill title. Dorfmeister was fourth Saturday.

Several skiers complained that Friday's super-G was too straight and easy, but most agreed the downhill was more challenging.

``It's not an easy downhill,'' Paerson said. ``There were some crashes today. It's got lots of small details _ the rolls can be very difficult and you have to concentrate on finding and maintaining your line.''

Copyright © 2005 The Associated Press

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