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Nowen rides a three-race winning streak over Koznick

December 29, 1997

LIENZ, Austria (AP) _ From a skier who couldn’t win, Ylva Nowen has turned into a skier who can’t lose.

The transformation has given the Swede a three-race winning streak in the slalom.

In eight previous seasons on the World Cup circuit, Nowen had never finished better than fifth. She was seriously considering quitting.

Then this summer, she consulted a psychologist, and Nowen gained the mental strength she’d never had before. The subject intrigued her so much that she enrolled in psychology studies in the university in her native Ostersund.

``It’s all a matter of self confidence. I hardly changed anything in the way I ski,″ Nowen said after sweeping the two weekend slaloms.

Nowen began the season by finishing second in a parallel slalom, then placed second in the opening slalom in Park City, Utah.

One week ago, Nowen got her first World Cup victory, in the slalom in Val d’Isere, France, to begin her streak.

On Sunday, she bounced back with a flawless second run to beat Kristina Koznick of the United States by one-tenth of a second, recovering from a first-heat deficit of 0.12 seconds. Nowen’s winning aggregate was 1 minute, 37.33 seconds.

``I woke up last night and had problems falling asleep again. So I was quite tired today. I had difficulties concentrating,″ Nowen said. ``I wasn’t thinking about winning the race before the second run. I was surprised that I beat her.″

Although she missed the chance of scoring her first victory, Koznick posted the best finish of her career.

``I’m not disappointed, because my goal was to finish in the top three,″ Koznick said. ``It’s a tough position to be in after the first run and I am proud of myself that I hung in there in the second.″

Koznick, a resident of Burnsville, Minn., is in her sixth year on the U.S. team, although she missed one full season after tearing left-knee ligaments in 1994.

She had never placed better then 10th before this season, but now has one second, two fourth places and one sixth.

``The fact that I’m consistent shows how good I’ve become,″ Koznick said. ``The main reason is that I believe in myself for the first time. This summer, I asked myself, `Do I love this sport? What do I want to do?‴

``Each race gives me more and more confidence.″

While Koznick got bold, U.S. slalom coach Raul Quisado got bald.

``He bet that he would shave his head off if I made the podium, so I obliged,″ she said.

Koznick’s aggregate time of 1:37.43 was just enough to edge world champion Deborah Compagnoni of Italy.

Compagnoni, runner-up to Nowen in the last two slaloms, had the fastest second heat to vault from ninth to third with a combined time of 1:37.52, just 0.09 behind Koznick.

Urska Hrovat of Slovenia finished fourth, while Katja Seizinger of Germany had another outstanding performance in her least favorite event by finishing fifth to extend her commanding overall World Cup lead.

Seizinger picked up 45 points to raise her total to 911.

Nowen, who picked up 200 points over the weekend, is fourth with 533. She leads the slalom standings with 380 points after four races.

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