ASPEN, Colo. – Two-time defending World Cup overall champion Anja Paerson of Sweden stormed back in the second run to edge Janica Kostelic by three-hundredths of a second Sunday to win the season’s first women’s slalom.

Paerson was in third place, more than a second behind the leader Kostelic, after the first run. But she sailed down the Aspen Mountain course under a clear blue sky in 46.71 seconds in the second run to win with a combined time of 1 minute, 36.01 seconds.

Kostelic, winner of three gold medals for Croatia at the Salt Lake City Olympics, was second at 1:36.04. Kathrin Zettle of Austria, third in Saturday’s giant slalom, was third Sunday, too, in 1:36.44.

The competition wrapped up three days of racing at the Aspen Winternational, the only U.S. stop on the women’s World Cup circuit.

U.S. skiers had a rough day on their home snow. Kristina Koznick, a six-time World Cup champion who plans to retire after this season, was 14th. Julia Mancuso was 19th, and Lindsey Kildow skied off course and did not finish. One of America’s best slalom racer, Sarah Schlepper, is out with a back injury.

Paerson, second in Saturday’s giant slalom, celebrated her 27th World Cup triumph with her trademark belly slide at the finish. She has won 15 World Cup slalom races, including one of the two slaloms in Aspen last year.

Kostelic was 0.84 seconds faster than her nearest competitor Zettel in the first round, but her second run time of 47.77 was more than a second slower than Paerson.

Kostelic, who underwent surgery on her right knee in June, won one of the two slaloms in Aspen last season. She has 21 World Cup titles and two overall championships in a career that has been disrupted by injury and illness. She underwent three knee operations and her thyroid was removed, missing the entire 2003-04 season.

Martina Ertl-Renz, in 11th place, broke the World Cup record for most race appearances with 403. The 32-year-old German was presented with a bouquet at the end of her first run. The previous mark of 402 was held by Anita Wachter of Austria.

“Yeah, that’s really many races. I’m proud of it,” Ertl-Renz said. “I’m so many years on the world circuit, in all events. It’s a special experience. What’s also important is I was for four years at the top of the World Cup. I’m still close to the podium. I hope for a podium place or a win this year.”

AP-ES-12-11-05 1623EST

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