MERIBEL, France -- An Olympic medal was all but certain for U.S. skier Julie Parisien of Auburn, Maine, in the women's slalom yesterday but she blew her chances in the second run. Parisien, 20, who had the fastest time in the first run, finished fourth after the second run.
Petra Kronberger of Austria, the defending World Cup slalom champion, won the gold. Annelise Coberger of New Zealand, the first Kiwi ever to win a medal in the Winter Games, was second. Blanca Fernandez Ochoa of Spain was third.
Parisien, who started in the 15th spot in the second run, the position assigned to the first-run winner, doubled over as if in pain when she crossed the finish line and glanced at the scoreboard.
"I felt sick," she said. "I said to myself, 'You just gave an Olympic medal away.' It hurt a lot; I was really hurt. I was really disappointed because if you win a run you know you can win a race."
Kronberger, who won the gold in the combined downhill last week, said she thought Parisien had crumpled under the pressure of being first in the first run.
"Somehow it is better if you are a little behind in the first race," said Kronberger, who was third in the first run. "But it all depends on how the athlete copes with the pressure."
Fernandez, 28, whose medal was her first in four Olympics, said she knew how Parisien felt before her second run on the 58-gate course.
"I did the same thing at Calgary in 1988," she said. "I was first in the first run of the slalom. Because of the pressure on me, I didn't do well in the second run and finished fifth."
Fernandez, who was second in the first run by three-hundredths of a second, said she thought about Calgary before her second run yesterday, "but I decided to forget all about it and concentrate on the course."
"After her first run, I thought Julie would be in the medals," Coberger said. "I still don't understand why she was slow in the second run."
Before her second run Parisien also thought she was going to win a medal. That was her mistake.
"There's so much time between runs and I didn't spend it the right way," Parisien said. "About half an hour before the second run I was thinking, 'I'm going to be in the medals, I'm going to be in the medals.' Fifteen minutes before the run I was thinking, 'Be strong in every gate, ski very well, just do what you can do.'
"I think I needed to do it the other way around. I think I needed half an hour of thinking about doing really well and about five minutes, or maybe five seconds, thinking about the medal."
Parisien, who won her first World Cup race in giant slalom at Waterville Valley, N.H., last year, said her second run was "sluggish" because she didn't want to risk being disqualifed by missing a gate or crashing.
A month ago she broke her left wrist when she hit a post at the finish line of a World Cup race and three days later she knocked out three front teeth when she collided with a spectator who wandered onto a training course.