Riesch wins women’s World Cup slalom, Vonn second
December 14, 2008
LA MOLINA, Spain ” Maria Riesch of Germany held on to win a women’s World Cup slalom Sunday, and Lindsey Vonn of the United States took second to reclaim the lead in the overall standings.
Riesch, who led after the first run, nearly skidded off the top section but recovered to finish 59.17 seconds and win with a combined time of 1:52.98, 1.48 seconds better than Vonn. Kathrin Zettel of Austria was third in 1:55.34 on the Cerdanya Catalunya course.
Vonn, the defending overall champion, moved back into first place in the standings with 438 points after Tanja Poutiainen of Finland finished sixth. The Finnish skier, who won Saturday’s giant slalom, trails by 38 points.
“I’m not thinking about the overall place right now, it’s much too early and I’ve always said that Maria will be one of the toughest competitors with Nicky Hosp,” Vonn said. “(But) I’m so comfortable on my skis right now in slalom and I’ve been really consistent and never had that before in slalom. It’s been going really well.”
The 24-year-old Riesch had the fastest times in both runs to pick up her first slalom victory since a win in Levi, Finland, nearly five years ago. She finished the morning run in 53.81 seconds on the way to her seventh World Cup victory and 21st podium finish.
“The conditions were a little bit tougher for me because I was starting later so I tried to just keep it clean and make no mistakes,” she said. “I might have had some slight problems at the start but you don’t never make mistakes. I just kept it together.”
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Vonn stayed at the top of the slalom standings with 230 points, 30 more than Riesch after three races. World slalom champion Sarka Zahrobska of the Czech Republic was third with 179 points after finishing fourth in 1:55.53.
The 24-year-old Vonn, the first American woman to win the overall title since 1983, was savoring a second podium finish after her slalom victory in Levi last month, especially with some suggesting that win came down to an easier course.
“I showed I’m definitely a slalom skier and I’m going to be in there competing every day,” said Vonn, who earned her 34th podium finish. “Little things like that help to get me fired up and prove everybody wrong.”
The top three all nearly lost control on the top part of the 2,000-foot course, with low visibility as the overnight snow continued into the afternoon. At least 16 inches of snow had fallen.
This is the first time that a World Cup event ” men’s or women’s ” was held in the Spanish Pyrenees.
Continuous snowfall, fading light and dipping temperature made it tricky for skiers around the gates in the afternoon. A tight middle section coupled with some quick combinations kept Vonn conservative on the first run, when she placed fourth in 55.09.
“I needed to get the confidence, feel the timing, feel the rhythm and I think I was just holding on a little too much,” she said. “I really carried good speed in the flat, just in the pitch I wasn’t letting it go. I tried to do that more in the second run. It was definitely cleaner and much more aggressive skiing.”
Olympic champion Anja Paerson of Sweden finished fifth in 1:55.64, while 2007 overall champion Hosp had the third-fastest time in the afternoon to finish ninth.
The women’s circuit moves to St. Moritz, Switzerland, next weekend for a downhill, giant slalom and super-combined. Vonn had crashed out of Saturday’s giant slalom but gets another chance in St. Moritz to become only the fifth woman to win events in all five disciplines.
Riesch and Vonn expect another tough contest in Switzerland, and say their close friendship never plays a part.
“Our friendship, it is what it is,” Riesch said. “We are fighting against each other, but we can also be friends and be happy for the other person.”