Schild's victory in Lienz extra sweet

29 December 2009 17:39

At this time last year, Marlies Schild wasn't sure she'd ever be able to race again. Five surgeries, a lot of physical therapy and countless hours of training later, she is back on top of the podium.

Much to the joy of the clamoring home crowd, the 28-year-old Austrian won the women's World Cup slalom in Lienz on Tuesday, with a time that was nearly two seconds faster than second-place Sandrine Aubert.

"I still just can't believe it," Schild said, flashing the same huge smile that she wears on the race course. "I never expected that this would happen. I never expected to win today. It's an amazing thing for me. I didn't expect to have this amazing time. I thought I could win if I skied well. I never thought [it would be] with such a time. It's a good moment now to say thank you to my family, also to my doctors, my coaches and physical therapists and trainers, to get back to get to such good shape."

The victory was the 21st of Schild's decorated World Cup career, but the first since her win in Bormio in 2008, which came before her horrible training crash in Soelden the following season, in which she suffered a broken leg and was sidelined until this season.

Her progress has been fast, however. Competing only in slalom races so far, Schild was sixth in Levi and second in Aspen. About 11 days ago she won the Europa Cup in Alleghe, Italy, and said she is feeling very lucky to be back at the front of the pack.

"It's an amazing thing for me," Schild said. "I didn't expect it would be so fast after my injury. So I'm on top of the podium now and it's a really great feeling."

Even her teammate, Kathrin Zettel, who has fought through her own knee problems from the summer but who landed her fifth podium of the season with a third place in Lienz on Tuesday, was thrilled for Schild's victory.

"Marlies was really strong today, she gets more confident from race to race," Zettel said. "Everybody was hoping she [would] get the next victory."

Zettel also pointed out that having two Austrians on the podium was a relief for the whole team.

"I think it was very important," she said. "We only had one victory this year from Elisabeth Goergl [in the Lake Louise super G] so we were hoping for this."

The Lienz course is one of the longer ones on the women's World Cup slalom circuit. Several racers lost stamina near the end, where the course became particularly slick, and two racers - Susanne Riesch, who was, at that point in her run, leading the field, and Serbian Jelena Lolovic both slid and crashed two gates from the finish.

"The course gets chunky around some gates and then it's really slick in other parts so you just really have to stand on it and go for it," said Brigitte Acton, who was the only Canadian to finish the race, taking 17th place. "It's definitely a longer course. Halfway down I was ready to stop and have a Red Bull."

Tuesday's second place was the fourth podium of Aubert's World Cup career. The other three were victories - in the last slalom in Are as well as last season's Are slalom and the race previous to that in Ofterschwang.

Tina Maze was fourth Tuesday, followed by Sarah Schleper, whose fifth place was her best result since her victory in Lenzerheide in 2005.

World Cup overall leader Lindsey Vonn raced with a splint on her left arm following a bad crash in Monday's giant slalom, in which she suffered a bone bruise, and finished 18th. World slalom champion and Cup slalom leader Maria Riesch was 14th after a few mistakes in the middle of the course and Tanja Poutiainen, who said her back is feeling completely better following chronic pain she was having earlier this season, was in third place after the first run but had a huge mistake in the second, putting her in 27th.

The ladies Audi FIS Ski World Cup continues next year - January 3rd - with the night slalom in Zagreb, Croatia.

by Shauna Farnell