Canada's Mielzynski takes slalom for 1st World Cup win
Erin Mielzynski came out of nowhere Sunday to give Canada its first World Cup slalom victory since 1971.
The 21-year-old from Guelph, Ont., had never placed higher than 13th on the World Cup circuit but used a strong second run to race to gold.
"This has been my dream for as long as I can remember," said Mielzynski. "This is more than incredible."
Resi Stiegler of the United States finished in a career-best second place, while Marlies Schild of Austria placed third to win her fourth slalom World Cup title.
Marie-Michele Gagnon, of Lac-Etchemin, Que., finished fifth.
Mielzynski's previous best results were a pair of 13th-place finishes last year — in a slalom in December in Courchevel, France and another slalom in February in Zwiesel, Germany.
Sitting fifth after the first heat with a deficit of 0.60 seconds, Mielzynski went smoothly down the course to jump ahead of Stiegler.
"I've worked really hard this year and past years. I've battled with my confidence and so many things," said Mielzynski, who became the first Canadian woman to win a World Cup slalom since Betsy Clifford in 1971.
"I didn't do anything different, my goal for today was to try to race like I train every single day and I think that is what I figured out today," she said.
North American dominance
Mielzynski and Stiegler gave the podium an unexpected North American flavour and prevented Schild from tying Vreni Schneider's record of 34 career slalom wins. Schild had won six of seven previous slalom races this season.
The podium finishers benefited from a pair of mistakes by first-run leader Tina Maze of Slovenia. Maze missed a gate on the slushy course and failed to finish. Maze's mistake delivered the slalom title to Schild.
Maze also failed to make up any ground on overall leader Lindsey Vonn of the United States, who straddled a gate in the first head and crashed out. Vonn leads by 494 points, with six races remaining. A win is worth 100 points.
Stiegler, whose promising career was set back by several serious injuries, had a pair of fourth-place finishes in 2007, in a slalom and super-combined.
"I'm ecstatic, I almost have no words for it," Stiegler said. "I don't know why it all came together today, but maybe it could have come together all year and was just waiting for this one day."
Daughter of 1964 Olympic gold medallist Pepi Stiegler, she was on the verge of becoming a force on the World Cup circuit when she broke her left forearm and right shinbone and tore ligaments in the right on Dec. 28, 2007.
She came back in February 2009 to race slalom at the world championships and was 19th, then broke her foot a week later.
Stiegler was sidelined until the 2009-10 season, raced the first two events then broke her left tibia and femur in November 2009 while training in Colorado and had to miss the 2010 Winter Olympics. She returned to the World Cup in November 2010 and has been working her way back since then.
Stiegler acknowledged that she had considered quitting this season before deciding to keep competing.
"I was just determined. If it's not going to happen, it's not going to happen, but I am going to keep pushing," she said.
Her goal, Stiegler said, was to be better than before her injuries and "go on the podium consistently."
Lena Duerr of Germany, second after the first run, dropped to sixth. Mikaela Shiffrin, the 16-year-old American who was in a tie for third after the first run, made an early mistake in the second, then missed a gate at the bottom. She got back on the course to finish but fell to last.
Frida Hansdotter of Sweden, who shared third with Shiffrin after the first heat, fell back to seventh.