Norwegian skier Loeseth wins WCup slalom for 1st victory

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SANTA CATERINA VALFURVA, Italy (AP) — Nina Loeseth ended a 16-year World Cup victory drought for the Norwegian women's slalom team on Tuesday, posting the fastest time in both runs on the Deborah Compagnoni course.

Loeseth finished in 1 minute, 57.65 seconds to secure her first victory in dominating fashion, beating second-place Sarka Strachova of the Czech Republic by a big margin of 1.12.

Veronika Velez Zuzulova of Slovakia, who was 13th after the opening run, was third, 1.37 behind.

"That was about time," Loeseth said. "We have to drive for 6.5 hours today so maybe I open a bottle of champagne in the car."

Norwegian women had been unsuccessfully chasing a slalom win since Trine Bakke triumphed in Maribor, Slovenia, on Jan. 6, 2000.

"It's just amazing," said Loeseth, whose sisters Mona and Lene also competed on the World Cup for several seasons. "I did not think that I would win. But it's a good feeling."

Loeseth had three career podium finishes before, most recently in last month's giant slalom in Courchevel, France. She positioned herself for her maiden victory by gaining a 0.25-second lead over Charlotte Chable of Switzerland in the opening run.

"It was a stable run, no mistakes," Loeseth said about the first leg. "I am a very safe skier. I have to challenge myself to ski more on the limits."

Chable, who started the race 28th, lost balance and fell just a few gates before the finish of her second run.

"I felt I had some mistakes," Loeseth said. "I had a bit of problems but it was OK, actually. I just pulled out everything I had and it was worth it."

Loeseth draw praise from Strachova, the 2007 world slalom champion who has been without a World Cup win for more than six years.

"(Loeseth) has done very well lately, in giant slalom as well," Strachova said. "The second run looked so easy but she was brutally fast. She fully deserved to win here."

Frida Hansdotter, who was on the podium in all four previous slaloms this season, finished fifth and retained the lead in the discipline standings. The Swede has 365 points, followed by Strachova with 271 and Slovakian pair Velez Zuzulova and Petra Vlhova with 220 each. Vlhova didn't score points after sliding off course in her opening run.

Hansdotter also overtook Lindsey Vonn in the overall standings and climbed to second place behind Lara Gut of Switzerland. Vonn and Gut don't compete in slalom. Gut has 658 points, Hansdotter 521 and Vonn 500. Loeseth climbed to fourth with 406.

The result left Mikaela Shiffrin as the only skier with more than one slalom victory this season. The Olympic and world champion from the United States won the first two events but is out recovering from knee injury for an indefinite time.

A men's slalom on the same course is scheduled for Wednesday. Both races were moved from Zagreb because of a lack of snow and mild temperatures in the Croatian resort.

The women's World Cup travels to Altenmarkt-Zauchensee, Austria, for speed races this weekend.

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