Slalom Hat Trick for Austria’s Schild

Semmering, Austria – Austrian red flares erupted from a rowdy crowd of 14,000 Wednesday night as Marlies Schild set off New Year’s fireworks in Semmering with a wire-to-wire Audi FIS Alpine World Cup slalom victory, her third win of the season. Maria Riesch of Germany stormed from 17th to second, gaining a considerable buffer in the overall chase as Lindsey Vonn, of Vail, Colo., was looped off course in the opening run and did not finish.nTwenty-year-old German Christina Geiger finished third for the first podium of her young career, .54 behind Schild, who now leads the slalom standings.

“I honestly wish I knew what happened,” said Vonn, who leads the downhill, super G and super combined standings. “My skis just hooked up with the snow and I was launched off course.”

“Usually what happens when Lindsey is not in the race anymore is that Maria goes for it because she has nothing to lose,” added U.S. Ski Team Women’s Head Coach Alex Hoedlmoser of Riesch’s lightning fast second run, which nearly eclipsed Schild’s 1.2 second advantage.

Top American Sarah Schleper, also of Vail, had a stunning run going before being bounced offline lower on the course to finish 28th after landing ninth in the opening run.

“It’s very disappointing because she [Schleper] would have been on the podium easily today,” said Hoedlmoser. “She was here to race and to be on the podium and not just to be top 30 and that’s how she skied. She shouldn’t be disappointed at all because she knows she has the speed.”

Schleper transferred the energy from her signature pre-start roar to her Rossignols, producing the fastest second run time behind Riesch before hooking a tip 10 gates above the finish. The four-time Olympian arrested her slide and immediately began hiking back up to make the gate as the over flowing Austrian crowd echoed her roar.

“I started doing a different shout at the start of my run because we thought that would be better for going faster,” said Schleper after finishing 15th in Tuesday’s giant slalom. “I am shouting when I go out rather than shouting before so I take the energy more into the run.

“I have been skiing really fast with my two fastest teammates,” she said. “I am one of the oldest and as long as I can keep going I am happy because I love what I do.”

Rounding out the U.S. Ski Team starters, Julia Mancuso (Squaw Valley, Calif.), Resi Stiegler (Jackson Hole, Wyo.) and Hailey Duke (Boise, Idaho) each missed qualifying for the second run.

Canadian Alpine Ski Team member Erin Mielzynski, of Guelph, Ontario, skied her way to a best career result as she finished in 20th place. Mielzynski was 29th after the first run but managed to climb up nine positions by having the 11th fastest second run.

“I’m obviously happy about my race today since it’s my best result in a World Cup race. I think it’s a good stepping stone for me and it is great for the confidence builder for the races to come because I know I can do even better,” said Mielzynski, who came out of the starting gate with bib number 50.

The only other Canadian skier to qualify for the second run was Sherbrooke, Quebec’s Eve Routhier who managed to finish in 23rd place for her second time scoring FIS points in her career. Quebec’s Marie-Michèle Gagnon, Anna Goodman and Brittany Phelan all failed to qualify for the second run.

America’s Mancuso and Vonn will now head to Munich, Germany for a Jan. 2 parallel slalom at the Munich Olympic Park, home of the 1972 Olympic Summer Games.

“It’s going to be a great show,” said Hoedlmoser. “It’s good for the sport to have city events – it’s good to promote the sport with a big city crowd and the girls have a great chance there to be on the podium.”

World Cup points and over $100,000 in prize money is up for grabs as the top 15 men and women in the overall standings go head-to-head in a single elimination battle. World Cup giant slalom leader Ted Ligety, of Park City, Utah, will represent the U.S. men.

Audi FIS Alpine World Cup
Semmering, Austria – Dec. 29, 2010

1. Marlies Schild, Austria, 1:42.06
2. Maria Riesch, Germany, 1:42.38
3. Christina Geiger, Germany, 1:42.58
4.Tanja Poutianen, Finland, 1:42.69
5. Therese Borssen, Sweden, 1:42.89

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