Sweden’s Paerson wins gold again
SANTA CATERINA VALFURVA, Italy – Hampered by a cough, sore throat and breathing problems, Anja Paerson got an assist from her father Tuesday and won her second gold medal of the Alpine World Championships.The Swede successfully defended her giant slalom title, her first victory in the event since a giant slalom in the World Cup opener in October.Paerson, also the super-G winner at the worlds, tore down the sun-drenched course in a two-run time of 2 minutes, 13.63 seconds. Tanja Poutiainen of Finland, the World Cup overall and giant slalom leader, was second and Julia Mancuso of the United States rallied to finish third and picked up her second bronze medal.Paerson’s chances appeared dim until father and Swedish team coach Anders Paerson was selected to set the gates for the second run. The job of setting the course is rotated among coaches from race to race.
“I woke up this morning not feeling so well,” Paerson said. “I had pain in my chest. Every time I breathed I’d start coughing. It was hard to take in the cold air.””I was lucky my father set the course,” she added. “It went my way when I needed it.”Paerson led after the opening leg, which was set by the coach of neighboring Finland. Then, with her father lining up the gates for the final run, Paerson kept her lead.”I’ve been having problems with my rights turn in the technical events,” Paerson said. “I need more time to prepare the turn so I’m not as aggressive going into turns on the right. My dad takes this into consideration whenever he’s the one setting the course.”
Poutiainen had the advantage in the first leg when her coach set the course but finished only third. However, a stronger second trip allowed her to take the silver in 2:13.82, giving Finland’s women their first world championship medal.”It’s a great feeling. I’ve been to a lot of world championships and I’ve never won a medal before,” said the Poutiainen, competing in her fifth worlds.Mancuso was seventh after the opening leg but vaulted to third with a time of 2:14.27, adding another bronze to the one she claimed in last week’s super-G.”I liked the second run course a lot better,” Mancuso said. “The set was more my style.”
Paerson wasn’t the only ailing skier, with a nasty virus making the rounds.Slovenia’s Tina Maze, the most exciting giant slalom racer this season, was sick and disappointed her many fans by wiping out in the opening leg. Maze was hit by the bug and was unable to train for the giant slalom.Janica Kostelic, the winner of the combined and downhill titles at the worlds, missed the race because of a cough and fever. The Croat hopes to compete in Friday’s slalom, team officials said.”We have doctors everywhere,” Paerson said. “Janica was out and other skiers are sick, too. But I know my limit, and as long as I don’t have a fever nothing will stop me racing at the world championships.”
Paerson won the last season’s overall, slalom and giant slalom World Cup titles. But her performance in the technical disciplines plummeted after she concentrated more on the super-G and downhill. She has just a single slalom victory this season.”I knew my results would probably go down in the technical disciplines after I added the super-G and downhill,” Paerson said. “You can’t be top in the four disciplines all at once. It will take time.”In Friday’s slalom, the Swede will need to fight off both illness and a perfectly healthy Poutiainen, who already has secured the World Cup title in the discipline.”I just arrived here. I’m feeling fine, no problems,” said Poutiainen, who skipped the speed races to train for the giant slalom. “I can beat Anja in the slalom.”Vail, Colorado