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WORLD SPORT

Kostelic second to take slalom cup

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Kostelic has reached the podium in every World Cup slalom this season

LEVI, Finland -- Olympic champion Anja Paerson won the penultimate women's slalom of the season but Croatia's Janica Kostelic clinched the event's World Cup title thanks to her second place.

Skiing in clear weather and good conditions after snowstorms on the previous day, the Swede finished with a total time of one minute 38.86 seconds, 0.29 ahead of Kostelic.

Austrian Nicole Hosp, the silver medallist at last month's Torino Olympics, was third, 1.14 behind Paerson.

Kostelic, the Olympic combined champion, had only her second slalom win of the season here on Friday on the same slope, but she has finished every other race in the event on the podium.

"I was going for the win, I was comfortable and got a good start," Kostelic said. "Then (in the second run) I started to think a little about winning the slalom title.

"But it's great, it's my first World Cup title since 2003 and I have been really consistent in the slalom, I would say almost as good as I was five years ago," added the Croatian, referring to her eight consecutive slalom wins in 2001.

Austrian Marlies Schild, Kostelic only real slalom cup threat going into the race, struggled with a back injury to finish fourth in 1:40.46.

The 19-year-old Kathrin Zettel, Schild's compatriot and the only other woman with a small chance of catching Kostelic in the slalom standings, skidded out of the second run after being third in the opening leg.

With Saturday's win, Paerson maintained the pressure on Kostelic in the chase for the overall World Cup title which will be decided at the season's finals in Are, Sweden, next week.

The overall title is now a battle between only Kostelic and Paerson with four races left in Are, starting on Wednesday.

Downhill and super-G Olympic champion Michaela Dorfmeister, third in the overall standings, lost all chance of catching up after the slalom weekend in Lapland.

The Austrian speed event specialist, who retires at the end of the season, raced for fun on the Black Levi slope on Friday and failed to qualify for the second run. She did not race on Saturday.

Paerson is skiing despite a knee injury for which she will undergo surgery after the finals. She was second behind Kostelic on Friday.

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