Paerson wins first downhill, joins elite list of all-around winners

Saturday, February 26th 2005, 11:47 am
By: News On 6

SAN SICARIO, Italy (AP) _ Anja Paerson of Sweden became just the second female skier in history to win World Cup races in all four disciplines in a single season, claiming victory Saturday in a downhill for the first time in her career.

Paerson, who finished in 1 minute, 52.86 seconds, matched the feat set by Petra Kronberger of Austria in 1990-91. Kronberger also won a combined race that season, giving her a fifth type of victory in an event that combines 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 her first World Cup super-G on Friday.

Originally a technical specialist excelling 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),'' Paerson said of her country, which is known more for its slalom skiers, such as Ingemar Stenmark.

``It's come so fast this year,'' added Paerson, who only began racing all four disciplines last season, when she won the overall World Cup title. ``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.''

Janica Kostelic of Croatia was second, 0.24 seconds behind Paerson, and Hilde Gerg of Germany was third, 0.98 behind.

Paerson also increased her overall World Cup lead. She now has 1,161 points, followed by Kostelic with 1,078.

While Kostelic won three titles to Paerson's two at the world championships earlier this month, she has captured only one World Cup race this season, taking a slalom in Aspen, Colorado, in November.

``I can just congratulate her and bow,'' Kostelic said of her rival. ``I started racing all four before her, but I'm not going to quit skiing, I plan to ski quite a few more years and hopefully I'll win (every event).''

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 of the United States joined Marc Girardelli as the only male skiers to win races in all four events in one winter.

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

Renate Goetschl of Austria finished eighth and had her lead ahead of Gerg in the downhill standings narrowed to just 32 points with only one race remaining, at the season-ending World Cup finals in Lenzerheide next month.

With victories worth 100 points, two other skiers _ Michaela Dorfmeister of Austria (75 points behind Goetschl) and Lindsey Kildow of the United States (83) _ also still have a mathematical chance of winning the downhill title.

Dorfmeister finished fourth Saturday and Kildow was seventh.

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

Paerson increased her pace most of the way down before slowing only slightly before the finish near where she fell in Thursday's training.

``It's not an easy downhill. 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,'' Paerson said. ``Today the speeds were 105 kph (65 mph). That's not the fastest, but it's challenging.''

Paerson knew four years ago that she wanted to become an all-around skier.

``I thought maybe by (the 2006 Olympics) it would be possible to ski all disciplines,'' she said. ``Right now, I'm ahead of schedule. It's been moving really fast. I didn't rush myself in downhill. My goal four years ago was to win the Olympic downhill, which is looking very good now.''