Marlies Schild clinches slalom title
SPINDLERUV MLYN, Czech Republic -- Marlies Schild of Austria won her sixth World Cup slalom this season and clinched the discipline title, while Lindsey Vonn narrowed the gap for the overall title after Maria Riesch did not finish.
Schild had the fastest time in both runs to clock 1 minute, 43.85 seconds on the Black course. Kathrin Zettel finished 0.93 second behind and Tina Maze of Slovenia was third.
Three-time defending overall champion Vonn was tied for 16th, but decreased Riesch's overall lead from 38 points to 23. Vonn said she didn't know Riesch was out before she started the second run.
"I just had to keep charging as if she was winning," Vonn said. "It still wasn't my best slalom run, but it's the first slalom race I actually finished in a long time."
Riesch was 15th after the first run, where she had problems on the lower part of the course. She skied out just seconds into the second leg.
"This was a really, really bad and disappointing weekend for me," Riesch said. "I'll try to forget about that as soon as I can."
With four more events -- a downhill, super-G, slalom and giant slalom -- the race between Riesch and Vonn in the overall title likely will go down to the wire.
"This is a new challenge I never really faced before, to be down in the World Cup," Vonn said. "Bring it on. I'm pushing myself harder than I ever have."
Schild holds an insurmountable 111-point lead over second-place Tanja Poutiainen of Finland in the slalom standings with only one more race remaining in the discipline.
"It's great to win [the discipline]," said Schild, who won the slalom title for the third time. "I didn't expect to win it before the finals.The last races will be really cool."
The Austrian is a winner of six of eight slaloms this season and 29 career World Cups events.
Vonn has been struggling in slalom, only finishing the November events in Levi, Finland, and Aspen, Colo. She was in 12th place after the first run and had the 20th fastest time in the second. She remains 20th in the slalom standings.
"I didn't ski well in my second run," Vonn said. "I know it was little bit too turny for me on the top. I just never really got into a good rhythm."
On Friday, Vonn finished third in the giant slalom in Spindleruv Mlyn for her first career podium in the discipline to narrow Riesch's lead from 96 to 38 points. Riesch almost skied off in the second round and placed 29th.
"It's going to be really exciting finals, it's going to push me to a new level of skiing I never seen before myself," Vonn said. "This is going to be on the same level as the Olympics as far as the pressure goes."
Despite her disappointment, Riesch still sounded optimistic before the finals.
"I'm still in the lead overall and we have four races to go," she said. "I'll try my really best next week and the world will not stop turning if I lose the big globe."
Riesch acknowledged that Vonn is finding her rhythm in the technical disciplines just in time.
"She did a great GS, and she had a solid slalom performance today," she said. "She's coming back in tech events, but I still can beat her."
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press
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