Pärson reigns supreme as Åre World Championships close

Anja Pärson brought the curtain down on the world championships on Sunday by pulling level with Norwegian Lasse Kjus in a prestigious medals table seen as alpine skiing's rich list.

Alpine great Kjus sits second in a post-war table on 16 medals from the world championships and Olympic Games behind compatriot Kjetil Andre Aamodt, who is considered skiing’s greatest all rounder.

Aamodt and Kjus retired last year, but Pärson has edged closer to overtaking both men on the medals tally – and she is still only 25 years old.

Pärson’s golds from the downhill, super-G and super-combined, a silver in the team event and a slalom bronze meant she took her medals tally from four world championships to 11.

With five Olympic medals, including the slalom gold from last year, she now has 16 medals from world championships and Olympic Games combined, allowing her to equal Kjus and overtake French legend Marielle Goitschel who has 14 in total.

Not content with that achievement, in winning the prestigious world downhill gold for the first time Pärson became the first skier to claim world titles in all five disciplines.

Her coach and father Anders is now under no illusions about his daughter’s status in sport.

“It’s really big,” he said after her downhill victory. “It’s like the Formula One of skiing, and she’s beaten everybody.

“Now I feel that when we’re talking about guys like (Roger) Federer and

(Lance) Armstrong we can also talk about Anja. We’re not ashamed to say she is now one of the world’s best athletes.”

Pärson now has world titles in downhill, super-G, giant slalom, slalom and the combined (downhill/slalom).

The Swede’s seven career world titles means she sits third in a woman’s only list from the world championships behind German Christel Cranz, who has

15 medals including 12 gold. Goitschel is second on 11 including eight gold.

Pärson’s detractors would say she claimed her latest silverware here in the absence of Croatia’s four-time Olympic champion Janica Kostelic – who is taking a year out from the sport.

However no-one can argue with the achievements of Pärson, a former two-time winner of the overall World Cup title who has 34 victories from the tough series.

The Swede’s feats have prompted some to tip her to beat the record number of 86 World Cup wins held by her legendary compatriot Ingemar Stenmark, all of which came in the slalom and giant slalom.

But some, including Pärson’s ski technician – a man who is to skiers what engine supremos are to Formula One drivers – beating Stenmark’s benchmark would be difficult.

“Stenmark’s era was different. Even when he fell he could get back up and win,” Ales Sopotnik told AFP.

“Now, because of the good equipment the athletes are all so close together so the competitions are a lot tougher.”

A more likely target for Pärson, if she can stay injury-free all the way to the Vancouver Olympics in 2010, is the women’s record of 62 World Cup wins held by retired Austrian Annemarie Moser-Proell.

Austria topped the medals table at the World Championships, with a total of three golds, three silvers and three bronzes. Hosts Sweden followed close behind – thanks largely to Pärson’s efforts – picking up three golds, two silvers and two bronzes.