Maria Riesch wins opening women’s World Cup slalom | AspenTimes.com

Maria Riesch wins opening women’s World Cup slalom

Stephan Nasstrom
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

Germany's Maria Riesch reacts in the finish area after winning an alpine ski, women's World Cup Slalom, in Levi, Finland, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2009. (AP Photo/Giovanni Auletta)

LEVI, Finland – Maria Riesch of Germany won the opening women’s World Cup slalom Saturday, edging Lindsey Vonn of the United States by 0.08 seconds.

Riesch, the defending world slalom champion, finished with a two-run time of 1 minute, 48.71 seconds on the Black Course at the World Cup circuit’s northernmost venue above the Arctic Circle.

Tanja Poutiainen of Finland was 1.16 behind in third place and kept the overall World Cup lead. Poutiainen won the opening giant slalom race of the season last month in Austria.

Vonn is coming off her second consecutive overall title last season, as well as winning the downhill and super-G titles. On Saturday, she barely lost to her good friend Riesch.

“I think I had a pretty solid first run, but in the second run I had some small mistakes,” Vonn said. “Maria definitely had a great run today and I’m happy that she won. I’m happy with my second place. It was a solid result for me.”

Riesch earned her 12th career World Cup victory. Coming into the race, the 24-year-old was uncertain about her slalom form.

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“This past week, I had some problems finding my setup and a really good feeling and a good position on my skis,” Riesch said. “I was not totally self-confident when I came here.

“But the last two days in training here I realized that I liked the Finnish snow a lot. I got the necessary confidence in the last two days to ski fast today.”

Vonn also liked the course.

“The snow was perfect and the course setting was perfect,” Vonn said. “Coming here to Levi I was really excited about it, just being out there with so many people and having such a great atmosphere really made me happy.”

Former overall champion Anja Paerson, who had the fourth fastest time in the opening run, nearly straddled a gate late in the second run. The Swede regained her rhythm, but the mishap cost her several seconds.

She wound up 24th among the 29 finishers, 3.70 seconds behind Riesch.

Vonn said she loves skiing at Levi.

“This hill reminds me so much of racing back home in Buck Hill (Minnesota),” Vonn said. It would have been nice to get the win again, but I had a big mistake at the bottom.”

Vonn planned to fly back to the United States on Saturday to train in Vail, Colo., for the World Cup meet in Aspen in two weeks.

“This gives me awesome confidence going into the Aspen Winternational in a few weeks,” she said. “My skis are feeling really good. Until you race you don’t really have a measure for how you’re doing against the other girls, so I’m pretty thankful to be on the podium.”

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