Schild lands fifth win of season in Arber-Zwiesel

04 February 2011 10:37

ARBER-ZWIESEL, Germany – When Marlies Schild finishes slalom races, she does so in rare form. The Austrian veteran nailed her fifth victory this season, beating most of the field by more than 2 seconds in Arber-Zwiesel as Slovakia’s Veronika Zuzulova finished second, 0.68 seconds behind Schild and Finland’s Tanja Poutiainen third, 1.78 seconds back.

Schild, whose podium rampage re-emerged last season when she came back from a year off with injury the previous year, won this season’s slalom opener in Levi, then again in Courchevel, Semmering and Zagreb.

“I don’t know how I do it. I just try to do my best,” Schild said of her slalom track record. “It was a tough race today, you had to fight really hard and I think nobody was without a mistake.”

Although several new centimeters of snow fell in Arber overnight and wind and fog greeted the day, more than 8,000 fans turned out for Friday’s World Cup slalom. The wind picked up into mighty gusts during the second run in Arber and the course – especially at the top – was shrouded in fog. Only 19 racers finished the race when 10 went out and one was disqualified in the second run.

Some mistakes began in the first run, however. World Cup overall leader Maria Riesch came into the race with the lead in the slalom standings, but after a shaky start to her race, she crashed out and ended her day early.

“It was hard to get a rhythm in this course, there are lots of combinations and turning and tight distances. I didn’t find a good rhythm from the beginning and then I just got back and fell,” Riesch said after the first run, still good-naturedly signing autographs and posing for photographs with a rabid throng of German fans. “Now I am just looking forward and I see the next race here and then the world championships.”

Schild now leads the slalom standings with 500 points, followed by Poutiainen with 460 as Riesch trails with 420.

The Austrian was undergoing several surgeries for a broken leg during the 2009 world championships but won silver in slalom at the 2003 championships in St. Moritz and 2007 in Are and bronze in combined in Santa Caterina in 2005 and also in super-combined in Are 2007.

Friday’s win in Arber-Zwiesel couldn’t come at a better time going into next week’s world championships in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, as Schild, who already has two slalom globes to her name, would love to add a gold medal to her trophy case.

“I don’t want to say the gold medal is more important [than winning the slalom globe] but maybe it is,” Schild said. “I won the slalom World Cup two times now so I think the gold medal is more important. We’ll see what happens.”

The second place was huge for Zuzulova, whose previous podium on the World Cup came nearly three years ago.

“For three years I had a lot of injuries,” said the 26-year-old, who landed her first podium on the World Cup in Arber-Zwiesel in 2004. “I lost almost all of my points, I [fell] totally down. This season I started to be better again and started to have my old confidence. Today it was a really big fight. I can’t compare today’s race with the last races I had here. I had my fan club and this was nice for me. I’m always happy when I can see some people from my small country.”

After the first run Poutiainen was almost a second behind then-leader Maria Pietilae-Holmner, but threw down an incredible second run, finding speed after almost – as so many other racers did – skiing off-course. Then again, her last DNF in a World Cup race happened way back in December 2006.

“I was a little afraid I would go out. I started fighting with the snow and the gate. I was diving in, but suddenly I was back again and I recovered the next gate and I could still end up on the podium … I’m really happy,” said the Finnish skier, who won the giant slalom in Arber-Zwiesel the last time the race was held here in 2007. “It was really difficult today. The second run was even windier up there, even more foggy and icy. I think I had a better run because it was more icy all the way down. I like the second run more, but as we all saw, it was not easy for anyone. Conditions, the weather, the course setting was really tight and turny – I think the turniest course all season – so you didn’t have time to recover if you made a mistake.”

The first course was set by the Czech Republic and the second by Sweden. Unfortunately, first-run leader Maria Pietilae-Holmner took a blow from her own coach’s course, skiing outside of a gate, stopping and stepping uphill to touch it, then managing somehow to still finish eighth, though nearly 3 seconds off the winning time.

Young Canadian Erin Mielzynski had the best World Cup race of her life on Friday, finishing 30th after the first run even after slicing her face open on a gate, then standing in the leader’s box for a large part of the second run to end up 13th. Bandages wrapped around a gash on her chin, the 20-year-old, who wore bib No. 42, left promptly for the hospital after the race.

Fellow Canadian Marie-Michele Gagnon also had a fantastic race – the best of her World Cup slalom career, finishing seventh.

“I was surprised to have such a fast second run,” Gagnon said. “Conditions on the course are good and even though it’s windy, it’s not bothering the race at all. There is one tricky combination there that seems to be getting a lot of people.”

This combination accounted for the elimination of Germany’s Fanny Chmelar and Susanne Riesch in the second run as the home team – normally filling most of the top 10 in slalom – did not have its best day. Katharina Duerr had the best result in 10th and Nina Perner, 14th, was the only other German to finish the race.

Italy’s Manuela Moelgg spent more time than anyone in the leader’s box on Friday, finishing 16th after the first run but fighting to fourth place in the second, 2.41 seconds off Schild’s winning time. Sarka Zahrobska, who has struggled this season, posted her best result since her 2010 Olympic bronze medal, finishing fifth (2.73 seconds off the winning time) and Kathrin Zettel, who is still fighting hip pain, was sixth, 2.86 seconds back. France’s Nastasia Noens, who has had a breakout season this year with top 10s in every slalom race since Aspen – including her first podium in Flachau – kept it up on Friday, finishing ninth.

Lindsey Vonn, who trails Riesch by 145 points in the World Cup overall standings, did not start the race on Friday. The American suffered a concussion training giant slalom this week and although she did her usual training and Friday morning’s warm-up, she opted out at the last minute because of what her husband Thomas described as “being about a half a gate back” when training on the slalom course.

“I just don’t think she is completely OK and I thought it was better for her to rest,” Thomas Vonn said just before the race Friday. “Normally she’ll fight through pain – any kind of pain – but head injuries are different. She’s upset, but I think this is the best plan.”

Weather-permitting, Saturday’s giant slalom in Arber-Zwiesel is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m.

Click here for full results of Friday’s slalom.

Go here for video with Schild, Zuzulova and Poutiainen.

by Shauna Farnell/farnell@fisski.com