Skiing: Paerson sweeps into record books
Inspired by another Swede making history, Anja Paerson made some of her own Sunday.
Paerson continued her record-setting romp through the Alpine Skiing World Championships, winning the downhill on a foggy course to become the first skier ever to win world titles in all five disciplines.
"I had tried to imagine what it would be like to win the downhill and become historic. But it's too big to comprehend," Paerson said. "It's my idols that I have surpassed, and it's such a strange feeling to be better than them. It's hard for me to appreciate how big this is."
It was the third straight victory at the worlds for the seemingly unstoppable Paerson, continuing a remarkable turnaround in a season where she has failed to win a single race in the World Cup.
This time, she got some inspiration from Patrik Jaerbyn.
The 37-year-old Swede stunned many by finishing third in the men's downhill earlier Sunday, becoming the oldest skier ever to win a medal at the worlds - and the first Swedish man ever to medal in downhill.
"I'm just so happy for him," said Paerson, who did speed training with Jaerbyn last week. "Watching on TV, I just started crying because I knew how hard he fought for it."
It was a spectacular day for Scandinavian skiers.
Aksel Lund Svindal won the men's downhill in 1 minute, 44.68 seconds to become the first Norwegian to capture skiing's most prestigious title at the worlds or Olympics.
"I knew I could be in the fight for the medals but I didn't think I would win," said Svindal, who leads the overall World Cup standings. "The fact that no other Norwegian won the downhill before, I think that's just a matter of bad luck actually. Just look at how many medals (Kjetil Andre Aaamodt and Lasse Kjus) got. They were for sure good enough skiers to win downhills at the world championships."
The normally dominant Austrian team, meanwhile, had one of its worst showing ever at a major downhill race. It was the first time since 1997 at Sestriere, Italy, that an Austrian man did not medal at the world championships, with Mario Scheiber leading his team in eighth place.
"This was just a bad day for us," Austria Alpine Director Hans Pum said. "Obviously we're not happy about it."
Jan Hudec of Canada took silver, 0.72 seconds behind Svindal, for his first medal at the worlds.
"It's a dream come true," Hudec said. "I knew if I had a great run I could be with the best."
Besides a medal, Hudec may also get a bed to sleep in now. Sharing a four-bedroom apartment with his Canadian teammates at the worlds has had disadvantages for Hudec so far.
"I was the guy sleeping on the floor, because I was the only one who didn't have a podium" finish on the World Cup this year, he said. "I think that was a little bit of motivation for me. So next race, I get two bedrooms."
Jaerbyn may have received his motivation from being counted out by his own team. He was dropped from the Swedish national team at the start of the season because coaches felt he was past his prime. Paying for his own equipment, he trained with Norwegian and American skiers instead this season.
"This is insane and incredibly fun after all the things I've gone through," Jaerbyn said. "It was very expensive, but it was worth it."
But he would not call it revenge.
"I don't think about it that way," he said. "But of course it feels great when people don't believe in you and you prove them wrong."
Defending champion Bode Miller was leading by .01 at the top split but went through some fog that briefly shrouded part of the course and nearly fell. It was the third disappointing result for Miller, who also failed to medal in the super-G and combined event.
However, Miller still has the chance to match Paerson if he wins the slalom race on Saturday. That would make the American the first male skier to capture a world championship title in all five disciplines.
"I think it's an incredible achievement," Miller said of Paerson. "It's probably one of the biggest achievements in sports. You only have so many world championships where you can compete, and only so many where you can be at the peak to win."
Paerson finished the downhill in 1:26.89, while Lindsey Kildow was 0.40 seconds behind to capture her second silver of the worlds. Nicole Hosp of Austria was third, 0.48 seconds behind.
It was Paerson's seventh career win at the worlds, putting her second on the all-time list behind Christl Cranz of Germany, who won 12 golds in the 1930s. With 14 career medals at the worlds and Olympics, Paerson is also slowly closing in on Aamodt's all-time record of 20 medals.
"She's only 25, so if she remains free of injuries she has every chance at beating me," Aamodt said.
With the giant slalom and slalom to go, it does not look impossible for Paerson to become the first skier ever to win all five events at the same worlds.
"This week has just been a dream," Paerson said. "I hope when I'm sitting there really old that I can look back and really (understand) what I've done. At the moment, I'm just too scared to think about it."
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