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Paerson triumphs; Koznick finishes second

MARIBOR, Slovenia -- Anja Paerson keeps winning World Cup
slaloms, and Kristina Koznick keeps finishing second.

Paerson, the world champion, maintained her first-run lead
Saturday to easily win her third consecutive slalom race.

The 20-year-old Swede compiled an aggregate time of 1 minute,
38.05 seconds. Koznick, of Burnesville, Minn., was 1.19 seconds
behind -- runner-up to Paerson for the second straight slalom.

"I skied the first race well and made two mistakes in the
second, and Anja didn't," Koznick said.

Laure Pequegnot of France was third, 1.25 seconds back, with
Tanja Poutiainen of Finland in fourth.

Sarah Schleper of Vail, Colo., less at home in the slalom than
in the faster disciplines, was seventh. Defending World Cup
champion Janica Kostelic, struggling to regain her form after three
offseason knee operations, finished ninth Saturday.

Judging by her superior speed and agility, Paerson will be the
skier to beat in the slalom at the Feb. 8-24 Salt Lake City Games.

"The Olympics are the high point of this season, and I feel in
really great shape," Paerson said. "Nobody is unbeatable, but I
feel very close to this."

Koznick, whose form also is rising as the Olympics draw closer,
responded: "We'll see about that tomorrow."

There is another World Cup slalom Sunday in Maribor.

Talking about the Olympics, the 26-year-old Koznick said, "Like
today, it will be between me, Anja, and Laure. For sure there will
be some special pressure, but everyone wants to do well."

Koznick has four slalom victories and was second to Paerson in
the last slalom, in Lienz, Austria.

The victory extended Paerson's lead in the slalom standings and
vaulted her atop the overall standings with 509 points -- 48 more
than second-place Sonja Nef.