Poutiainen and Riesch share Snow Space Princess throne
FLACHAU, Austria – Tanja Poutiainen and Maria Riesch have no problem sharing the throne as Snow Space Princess 2011.
The Finn and the German shot across the finish line dead even in front of a raucous 15,000 fans under the lights in Flachau Tuesday night. After leading the first run, Poutiainen carried her balance, power and speed into run No. 2 and, leading the whole way down, she dropped some speed at the bottom of the course and crossed the finish line with exactly the same time as Riesch, 1 minute, 42.52 seconds.
Posting the first podium of her World Cup career after becoming increasingly faster in every slalom race, France’s Nastasia Noens rounded out the podium Tuesday night, 0.52 seconds behind Riesch and Poutiainen.
“I’m so happy,” Riesch said. “I finally have my first win in slalom this season. I was second place four times and it’s absolutely no problem to share it with Tanja.”
Poutiainen, who has had several podiums but hasn’t won a slalom since Zagreb in 2008, said the same.
“I felt really confident today,” she said. “I had good training the last two days and I was skiing really good. It’s good to be on the top podium. Maria is always strong in slalom, so I’m really happy.”
Noens, a slalom specialist who landed her first World Cup top 10 result last year in Flachau and has followed up with four more this season, including three sixth places in Aspen, Courchevel and Semmering, said, “I love Flachau. I will always remember my first podium here.”
Poutiainen gets credit for setting the pace on Tuesday. Leading Noens by 0.21 seconds and Riesch by 0.41 in the first run, the Finnish veteran was trying to duplicate the sensation when she was the last racer down the course in the second run.
“I was still skiing good in the second run. I knew Maria and some other girls [were] really close, but I cannot start to think something on the second run. I had to attack. I just tried to get the same feeling as on the first run,” she said. “The hill is kind of easy but I think the course setting today was really good. It was a little tricky. Thinking about gaining the time, you have to think about how you come in these rollovers. I managed really [well]. I had a strong run.”
After dominating both runs of the previous three slalom races, Marlies Schild, who has earned four slalom victories this season, didn’t have her best race in front of the home crowd on Tuesday night. She had a quick recovery on a tricky uphill gate in the first run and was 1.40 seconds back going into run No. 2, where she got hung up on a combination, crossed her skis and crashed.
A handful of other top contenders eliminated themselves early in the first run. The third racer down the course, Sarka Zahrobska was slowed by a combination, then straddled a gate going into a flush, Nicole Hosp almost fell in the same area and missed the following gate and Tina Maze and Lindsey Vonn straddled gates midway down the course.
A void in the race and for the Swedish team, Anja Paerson, who had been fighting a bad flu since Christmas but was feeling better last weekend in Zauchensee where she finished second to Vonn in the downhill, had a relapse and opted out of the Flachau race to try to get healthy.
Looking quite healthy after dealing with hip pain earlier this season, Kathrin Zettel had the local throng making a happy racket when she flew into the lead in the second run. She was bumped to fourth, however, 0.82 seconds off the winning time. The gaps became bigger down the line, as Slovakian Veronika Zuzulova came in fifth, 1.24 seconds back, Sweden’s Therese Borssen sixth, 1.52 seconds back, her teammate Maria Pietilae-Holmner seventh, 1.61 seconds back, France’s Sandrine Aubert eighth, 2.32 seconds back as compatriot Anne-Sophie Barthet – famous for doing a little dance every time she crosses the finish line in the lead – ninth and another Swede Frida Hansdotter, in 10th.
Riesch now has a sizeable lead in the overall Cup standings with 1023 points to Vonn’s 827, and with the victory paired with four second places, also takes the lead in the slalom standings with 420 points as Poutiainen and Schild are now tied with 400 points.
For full results of the Flachau race, click here.
By Shauna Farnell/Farnell@fisski.com