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ST. MORITZ, Switzerland (AP by Erica Bulman) -- Renate Goetschl of Austria won a World Cup downhill Saturday after Anja Paerson of Sweden nearly pulled off a big upset.

Paerson, better known as a giant slalom and slalom skier, was competing in her first World Cup downhill. She was ahead until the last few gates, then hit a rut and careened off course.

"I am angry," Paerson said. "It was a simple mistake and I could have been a bit more careful."

Goetschl was followed by Germans Hilde Gerg and Maria Riesch. Jonna Mendes was the top American, finishing fifth. Olympic champion Carole Montillet of France, winner of the two previous downhills, was seventh.

Goetschl covered the Corviglia course in 1 minute, 39.78 seconds for her 15th career World Cup downhill victory and 29th overall. Gerg was timed in 1:39.95 and Riesch in 1:39.97.

Goetschl won downhills at this resort in 1999 and 2001. However, she was fifth at last year's world championships on this course.

"I had to put it right with the hill, show it who was boss," she said.

Paerson led by 0.03 seconds at the final section before hitting a rut. Her ski swung from under her and she tried to stay on her feet. She veered off course and snaked between two posts of a flagged gate.

She continued her wild trip, almost sitting on the tails of her skis. She finished ninth but was disqualified for missing the gate.

"I was very nervous when I was watching Anja come down," Goetschl said. "It's incredible she didn't fall. It shows all her skiing ability that she managed to stay on her feet."

Paerson leads the overall standings with 510 points. Austria's Nicole Host is second (320) and Goetschl third (306).

Mendes, who finished in 1:40.24, won the bronze medal in the super-G at the worlds on this course and was sixth in the downhill.

"Hopefully this is a turning point for me," she said. "A top 10 is really good for me at this point."

Austria's Christina Sponring crashed, tearing ligaments in her left knee and dislocating her right shoulder.

Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press

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