Riesch places third to seal slalom crown
GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany -- Olympic champion Maria Riesch of Germany won her second straight slalom World Cup title with a third-place finish in the final race of the season Saturday.
Marlies Schild of Austria won the race by a big margin, with teammate Kathrin Zettel placing second. But Riesch's third place was enough to give her the slalom title with 493 points, just three ahead of Zettel.
"It was not a very good day on the slope for me," Riesch said. "The first run was not good at all, and in the second I never managed to release the hand brake. I was really very, very lucky to get the title."
Riesch, who won the combined gold medal at the Olympics, could have lost the title if Zettel had won.
Schild, the Olympic silver medalist, had a comfortable lead after the first run and increased it to a massive 1.20 seconds over Zettel. Schild clocked an aggregate time of 1:49.57. Riesch was 1.90 seconds behind in third.
Schild, who won the slalom titles in 2007 and 2008, missed the entire last season after breaking her left leg in a training run crash.
"This is exactly the way I wanted to finish the season, with a win, especially on this difficult course," Schild said. "To do well on a course so icy and steep and to excel in these conditions was a big boost in my comeback season. I did much more than I expected with three victories and Olympic silver."
Schild's 21st slalom career victory moved her into a tie with Erika Hess of Switzerland in second place on the all-time list for slalom wins. Vreni Schneider of Switzerland had 34. Schild also has two other wins.
Riesch also won the world championship slalom title last year.
She finished second in the overall standings this season behind good friend Lindsey Vonn of the United States. Vonn clinched her third straight title by winning Friday's super-G race and then decided to skip the final event. She watched the race in the finish area.
Riesch's slalom title and Felix Neureuther's victory in the men's slalom set the stage for a massive party in the German resort that will stage next year's world championships. Riesch and Neureuther come from Partenkirchen.
Riesch's sister Susanne, who was third in the first run and one place above her sister, fell in the second, as she did at the Olympics.
Susanne could have knocked her sister off the podium and ended her hopes for a slalom title.
"I am sorry about the crash of my sister, but on the other hand it was probably decisive for my title," Maria Riesch said.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press
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