Marlies Schild secures third Snow Queen Trophy
The Audi FIS Ski World Cup Vip Snow Queen Trophy night slalom is the 5th ladies' slalom of the Audi FIS Ski World Cup season 2010/11. The first run started at 15:00 h CET amidst a thick layer of fog and the second run 18:00 h CET on Zagreb's local mountain "Sljeme," or the "Bear Mountain".
The Snow Queen crown is one of the most yearned for prizes on the ladies World Cup tour. In the end it was the Austrian racer Marlies Schild who took the throne after already posting the fastest first run time.
Not even 1,000 meters high, but accessible from the city by tram, the Zagreb Sljeme slalom has become a must-see-must-be-seen-at spectacle that demonstrates that skiing events are not necessarily tied to alpine locations as was already shown with the preceding City event in Munich.
With nearly 10,000 spectators lining the race hill, Marlies Schild (AUT) became the first women to ever win the coveted Snow Queen crown three times. Among the many spectators were also people from Croatia’s social scene and world of sports including the Presidents of the Republic of Croatia, the Croatian Parliament and the Croatian Olympic Committee, Zagreb’s mayor as well as Alpine skiing legend Alberto Tomba.
Just as the American Ted Ligety and the Frenchwoman Tessa Worley in giant slalom, Schild claimed her third victory in slalom this season. celebrated her third consecutive triumph this winter after her recent victories at Courchevel and Semmering a few days ago. She was particularly pleased with her newest success which reinforces her lead in the slalom standings with only four slaloms left on the World Cup calendar.
The 29-year-old Austrian from Saalfelden landed her 25th career World Cup slalom win meaning she is still nine short of Swiss Vreni Schneider's record established from 1985 to 1995. However, the record of slalom victories in one season still belongs to Croatia’s former ‘wondergirl’ Janica Kostelic who captured eight slaloms during her amazing 2000/2001 winter that she ended with the overall World Cup globe.
Even though Schild had denser fog in the first run than most of her opponents she ended up being 0.19 seconds ahead of Italy’s Manuela Moelgg and .76 ahead of Maria Riesch (GER).
Schild held the lead through the second run ending up 0.75 seconds faster than Olympic champion Maria Riesch, who took once more the second place - her fourth this season in slalom. Manuela Moelgg from Italy came in third 1.08 seconds behind the leader to secure her 10th career Cup podium.
“It’s for sure a very special competition and I badly wanted to win it again after failing last year because of a bad mistake. It was not easy to ski but, it is a really good feeling," said Schild. “I just wanted to do my best skiing, that was the only strategy,” said Schild having a 0.19-second advantage going into the second run. “If it works it works and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.”
"I don’t know if I’m in the best shape of my career right now but for sure I’m pretty good for the moment, " Schild added with a grin.
Despite her haul of victories, Schild remains winless in the big events having so far failed to win a World or Olympic title. This is something the Austrian wants to change at the upcoming FIS Worlds in Garmisch-Partenkirchen next month.
Riesch has two wins and eight podium places this season with five slaloms left in the present World Cup calendar. She currently has acculmulated 186 points in the overall World Cup ranking and leads her friend Lindsey Vonn by 80 points who recorded her third consecutive first-run DNF in a World Cup slalom. The three-time overall champion Vonn has only finished two of five slaloms this season. Her best result dates back to mid November with a sixth-place finish in Levi.
"I'm really proud of myself to maintain such a level of form in spite of such a hectic programme," said the German all-rounder Riesch, who skis in every discipline. "I fought as hard as I could today without thinking a second about the overall title. I’m pretty excited by my season-start so far and this third consecutive podium finish in a few days," also commented the Bavarian who came in twice 2nd in giant slalom and slalom at Semmering, in Austria, last week.
For the moment, my main goal is to keep on skiing that way and make the best out of my great form. I hope it will last a while – I’m looking forward for a great time at Garmisch-Partenkirchen in February. "
The double Olympic champion also explained that she is having the best time of her life right now after having spent a great summer last year with her manager and partner, Marcus Hoefl. "Everything is perfect right now, I’m really happy with my life," she told the reporters at the post-race press conference. The couple plans to get married next spring.
The 27-year-old South Tyrolean Moelgg is still waiting for the first career victory. To see her podium in slalom came really unexpected as Moelgg has not finished among the top three in this discipline for the past six years.
Finland’s Tanja Poutiainen, a two-time winner here, came in 4th just ahead of Munich winner Maria Pietilae-Holmner and France’s Nastasia Noens.
Another French specialist, last year’s winner Sandrine Aubert had to solve her equipment issues from the first run first before she was able to move up from 22nd to the tenth place for her best result of the season thanks to her outstanding second run.
A disappointed Vonn explained after her first run that she was tired and feeling sick. "I’m frustrated and disappointed, I expected more from that race," she also said. "I know I'm strong in slalom but it doesn't show," said the American who has not excelled since her last double win at Val d’Isère, France, last month. "I’m looking forward for the next speed events in Austria. “We raced a lot this past weeks and I need to find back some energy.”
The skier from Vail, Colorado, needs to score again some heavy points in the speed events to remain in the hunt for a possible fourth overall crystal globe.
The women's circuit now moves to Austria for two speed events in Zauchensee, near Salzburg. In a week, the next night-slalom is scheduled at nearby Flachau.
The men’s slalom on Sljeme is taking place on Thursday afternoon, 6 January 2011, with Ivica Kostelic fighting for his first win this season in front of his home crowd.
Click here for full results of the ladies Zagreb slalom race.
Contributed by FIS and Patrick Lang