Schild wins World Cup slalom in foggy Zagreb
Marlies Schild claimed her fourth slalom victory of the season at a women's World Cup night race on Tuesday in Zagreb, Croatia.
The Austrian had a flawless second run to finish in a combined time of two minutes 1.80 seconds and beat second-place Olympic champion Maria Riesch of Germany by 0.75 seconds. Manuela Moelgg of Italy was 1.08 back in third.
Anna Goodman of Mont-Tremblant, Que., didn't finish the first run.
Riesch extended her lead over Lindsey Vonn in the overall standings to 186 points. The defending champion from the United States went out in the opening run.
"It's a great feeling to win again. This is a special place for me," said Schild, who also won in Zagreb in 2006 and 2007 and had two more podium finishes here.
Schild has won every slalom race she has finished this season. She also won in Levi, Finland; Courcheval, France; and Semmering, Austria, but went out in her first run at Aspen, Colo.
"I am skiing with lots of confidence. I am having fun and that's the most important thing," said Schild, who has won 27 World Cup races, all but two of them slaloms.
She is closing in on the alltime record of 34 slalom wins by Swiss great Vreni Schneider.
"As I kid, I always looked up to Vreni," Schild said. "But nine victories left is a lot."
Schild overcame bad weather conditions to post the fastest time in the first run when thick fog over the icy Crveni Spust course caused poor visibility, especially for the early starters.
"I couldn't see much, just the next gate. It was like flying blind," said the Austrian. "I didn't feel like having a good run."
Conditions had vastly improved by the start of the final leg.
Riesch also called it a "very hard" first run.
"I could see just three gates ahead and I never was in a good rhythm coming down," the German said.
Riesch attacked in the final run to take second place for a sixth time this season.
"If I can put in two really good runs, then maybe I can win a slalom as well," Riesch said. "But for now, I am very happy. It's important to land on the podium to get the big points."
Vonn never looked comfortable from the start of her run. She was already 1.62 seconds behind when she lost balance in a right turn and slid off course. The defending overall champion also went out in both previous slalom races in Courchevel and Semmering.
Close friend Riesch believed that Vonn's equipment change two years ago has harmed her slalom performance. Vonn left Rossignol to join Riesch at Head.
"Lindsey was able to win slalom races three years ago, but not since switching her ski brands," Riesch said. "Now she's having difficulties. That's the risk of switching."
Teammate Sarah Schleper, who finished eighth, said Vonn might be lacking of confidence in the technical races.
"She hasn't been training much with us lately so hard to tell," Schleper said. "We've been training a lot on these conditions, on really icy courses. The coaches have done a good job in preparing us for these conditions."
Julia Mancuso went out as she straddled a gate after eight seconds into the first run, but Schleper, who started 30th, had a near-perfect run to go into the second leg as No. 5.
"I didn't feel that good coming down. My skis were sliding a little bit," Schleper said. "I was actually very surprised to see where I ended up. Maybe if I can clean up a couple of turns, I can be right there with the best girls."
A men's night slalom in Zagreb is scheduled for Thursday, while the women's World Cup circuit continues with speed races in Altenmarkt-Zauchensee, Austria, this weekend.