Marlies Schild aims for more.
Marlies Schild has been the dominant force in women's slalom since the departure of Croatia’s Janica Kostelic after capturing the World Cup titles in that specialty at the end of the 2007 and 2008 seasons! The 2011 World Champion really crushed her rivals during those winters, winning seven out of the nine slalom races on the 2006/07 World Cup schedule and brilliantly confirmed her potential to become one of the best all-time slalom skiers in past decades.
This season, the 31-year-old aims to beat the record of 34 slalom victories set many years ago by Switzerland’s Vreni Schneider who celebrated a total of 55 World Cup wins during her amazing career. At the end of the 2012 season, the charming girl-friend of Austria’s superstar Benjamin Raich has enjoyed 33 wins since her maiden triumph at Sestriere, Italy, back in March 2004.
Born in Saalfelden, nearby Salzburg, on May 31st 1981, Marlies Schild attended for many years the ski gymnasium in Stams. She was more interested in the speed disciplines in her early career but she was forced to focus on technical specialties due to a series of serious knee-injuries and underwent several knee-surgeries in her teen years!
Her move to the tech events was a slow and very progressive process at the beginning, yet her natural talent for slalom helped her to finally mature her technique in terms of results and confidence. Initially people had doubts about her mental toughness as she was considered to be too insecure about her capabilities yet she soon managed to become one of the leaders in slalom ten years ago.
After competing at the Salt Lake City Olympic Games, where she failed to finish her race, the often shy Austrian came to prominence in the World Cup in the 2002/03 season after posting a crucial 3rd place finish at Aspen behind the leading ‘Legends’ of the moment, Kostelic and Sweden’s Anja Paerson.
First medal at St. Moritz in 2003.
She followed that up with a silver medal in slalom at the FIS Alpine World Championships in St Moritz, in Switzerland, that same winter and amassed further six top-10 finishes on the World Cup circuit, ending the season in 5th place in that event. It only just got better and better afterwards.
During the following season, Marlies successfully kept on concentrating on the technical disciplines. After nailing four more podiums throughout that winter, she finally managed to celebrate a relieving victory in the last race of the season during the finals at Sestriere, in Italy. She moved up to 2nd place in the slalom standings behind the nearly unbeatable Paerson who also captured her first Overall title that year.
In the 2005 season the nearly 24-year-old began to also compete in Super-G and downhill yet not without keeping on improving her slalom technique. She enjoyed three more victories throughout the season and also managed a remarkable 3rd place in the Super-G of the Finals at Lenzerheide, confirming her ability as an ‘all-rounder’. Her 3rd place in the final slalom standings that year was followed up by a promising 2nd second place finish the following year behind Kostelic in the final season of the Croatian ‘Wondergirl’.
That summer Marlies Schild began dating fellow competitor Benjamin Raich to form what would turn out to be one of the most impressive skiing partnerships in modern times. That relationship for sure increased her confidence and her determination in the next period of her life.
Kostelic's sudden retirement in September 2006 left a void in slalom which was quickly filled by a more mature Schild. Known now for her grit and her reputation of bad looser, Marlies surfed on a very powerful wave and the 2006/07 season was in the same time extremely rewarding yet also very disappointing ! Despite her huge class and her strong determination, the Austrian ‘only’ came in 2nd in the slalom at the Are Ski World Championships before losing the Overall World Cup title to her teammate Nicole Hosp in the last days of the Finals in Lenzerheide, Switzerland.
A tough battle for Schild at Lenzerheide.
Schild had been battling for the Overall World Cup led during most of the season with other top stars as USA’s Julia Mancuso, ‘Speed Queen’ Renate Goetschl and giant slalom World Champion Niki Hosp, yet during those tense Finals in Lenzerheide the momentum began to swing in Hosp's favor.
A surprising 2nd place in downhill, the first event of those Finals, and a superb 3rd position in the last Super-G allowed Schild to have a 70 point- advantage on Hosp prior the tech events making her the great favorite in that exciting battle for World Cup supremacy. But then disaster struck in her beloved specialty, in slalom, after having clocked the second best time in the first leg. A big mistake in the second run put her down in 19th place with Hosp winning her first slalom in four years! The pressure of the last race proved to be too much for the elder of the two Austrians who was now 30 points behind her rival prior the very last race! Unfortunately for her, Niki Hosp won that race too and took home the coveted big Crystal Globe while Marlies had to be pleased with her 6th place that day.
After that disappointment Schild reevaluated her goals and decided to make slalom titles her main priority again for the next seasons. Although she didn't dominate the event as thoroughly as before, she easily retained her crystal crown in March 2008.
A bad injury at Soelden.
Leading up to the 2008/09 season Schild suffered a bad injury while training on the Rettenbacher glacier overlooking Soelden slope just two weeks before the start of the season there, fracturing her leg in two different places after straddling a gate. That bad injury kept her away from the slopes for the entire winter and nearly ended her career. After hard rehab, she was finally able to get back on snow in November 2009, finishing a promising 6th at Levi, in Finland.
It’s with great emotion that she celebrated her first comeback win at Lienz a few months later before enjoying her 2nd place in the Olympic event at Whistler Creek in February 2010. Two more victories at Flachau and at the Finals at Garmisch-Partenkirchen proved her that she was fully back and ready for more. In fact she dominated the 2011 season in her old fashion style, celebrating many more happy moments including at the FIS Worlds at Garmisch-Partenkirchen where she ended a long drought clinching gold in slalom there.
With six more victories and two more podium finishes she was again very successful during the 2011/12 season getting each time closer to Vreni Schneider’s impressive record of 34 World Cup triumphs in slalom. Marlies Schild will try hard to do better now.