American Lindsey Vonn wins World Cup slalom opener |

American Lindsey Vonn wins World Cup slalom opener

Stephan Nasstrom
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
Lindsey Vonn, of the United States, reacts after winning an alpine ski World Cup Women's Slalom, in Levi, Finland, Saturday, Nov. 15, 2008. (AP Photo/Giovanni Auletta)

LEVI, Finland ” American Lindsey Vonn picked up where she left off last season, winning the World Cup slalom opener on Saturday.

Vonn, who won her first overall World Cup title last season, overcame a big mistake late in the second run for a total time of 1:47.98 on Levi’s Black Course.

“I was going a little bit too straight,” Vonn said. “The course was getting a bit tighter and I was just kind of sitting back a little bit and pretty much stopped. I realized my mistake and just thought I had to give everything I had. I think I was really fast in the bottom.”

A speed specialist, Vonn led Nicole Hosp of Austria by 0.22 seconds after the first run and ended up beating runner-up Maria Pietilae-Holmner of Sweden by 0.40.

“It’s my first podium and my first win in slalom. It’s crazy. I love Levi,” Vonn said.

Pietilae-Holmner had a career-best performance.

“I’m really happy because this is my first World Cup podium,” Pietilae-Holmner said. “I had two good runs today. Now I know the training we’re doing is working good and I hope I can ski even better.

Maria Riesch of Germany was third, 0.66 behind. Hosp, who was runner-up in the overall standings last year, finished fourth.

Vonn’s best career slalom results have come at Levi, the world’s northernmost World Cup venue that is situated north of the Arctic Circle in Finland. She was fourth and sixth respectively in back-to-back slaloms here in 2006.

“My family is from Scandinavia,” Vonn said. “The landscape is so similar to back home (Burnsville, Minnesota). I definitely feel at home.”

Vonn, who has 13 World Cup wins in speed events, seems to be in good shape to repeat her success from last season.

“My goal is to defend the overall title,” she said. “Before this race, my goal was just to try to get a few points in slalom and giant slalom. Now I think things have changed a little bit. Doing well today gives me a lot less pressure for downhill and super-G.”

Sarah Schleper, another American, qualified for the second run in only her second World Cup race after a two-year hiatus from racing. She finished last in 25th place.

Before the giant slalom races at Soelden, Austria, three weeks ago, Schleper’s last race was March 5, 2006, in Norway, where she tore her ACL. After missing the 2007 season to rehab, she also gave birth to her son.

The men’s slalom, featuring defending overall champion Bode Miller of the United States, is Sunday on the same course.

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