Austrian domination continues
New day. Same story.Saturday, the Austrian women’s alpine team captured three of the top four giant slalom spots at the Aspen Winternational. The country’s reign continued Sunday when Marlies Schild and Nicole Hosp finished 1-2 in slalom. Schild, who posted the day’s two fastest runs, finished in 1 minute, 43.18 seconds, .8 seconds better than her teammate. The win is Schild’s eighth World Cup win in slalom, her ninth overall.Schild, who was disqualified on her first giant slalom run Saturday, has won both World Cup slaloms this season; her and Hosp were first and second in Levi, Finland, on Nov. 11. The win helped the 25-year-old maintain her lead in the International Ski Federation’s World Cup overall standings. She in familiar company at the top of that list; Austrians occupy the top four spots.”I was not happy about my day [yesterday],” Schild said. “I wanted to do good today. I did.”Schild’s success helps erase two straight years of disappointment in Aspen. She did not finish the first run of last year’s slalom and both slaloms in 2004. Her best finish in last year’s Winternational was a 27th in super G.”I like [the course] a lot better now,” she joked.Sweden’s Therese Borssen finished third Saturday, 1.07 seconds off Schild’s pace. Fellow Swede Anja Paerson, still working her way back from a right knee surgery following the Olympics, made great strides with a fourth-place result.Paerson, last year’s slalom winner in Aspen and Olympic champion, was fifth after the first run. She dropped .24 seconds during a strong second run to vault into the lead with five competitors left to race. The two skiers that followed did not best her time, but the final three – Hosp, Borssen and Schild – topped her, bumping the two-time overall champion off the podium.
Paerson said Sunday that the Swedish press was more concerned with prying into her social life than with her skiing. They also questioned her optimism following extensive surgery.Their tone may shift now.”Everyone knows what I can do and what I’m capable of,” she said. “It was nice to be able to do two runs today. I need races to get my tempo and to catch up.”Schild could not be caught. Borssen, the sixth competitor to ski in Run 1, posted a time of 51.68 to take the lead. It didn’t last long, as Schild followed with 51.28 to take over first – a lead she would not relinquish. She was .62 seconds slower in the second run, when light was flat and the course was repositioned, making turns between gates wider. So, too, was the rest of the field; only Schild and Hosp (51.97) posted sub-52 second times during the afternoon session.Austria put the rest of the world on notice this weekend.”We had a very good summer and focused on our technicals,” Hosp said. “We trained very good. We’re a little better at the moment than the other ones.”
Don’t rule out Sweden just yet, Borssen said. Two Swedes finished in the top-8 Saturday – Maria Pietilae-Holmner (fifth) and Anna Ottosson (eighth). And Pietilae-Holmner (sixth), Borssen (eighth) and Paerson (10) are in the top 10 in overall points standings.”They [Austria] are really strong, but I think the Swedes are coming,” said Borssen, who made her second World Cup podium. More disappointment for the U.S.For a second consecutive day, only three of nine Americans qualified for a second run. For those that did race during the afternoon session – Lindsey Kildow, Julia Mancuso and Resi Stiegler – only Kildow (16), who finished a full four seconds behind Schild, cracked the top 20.Mancuso, seventh in Saturday’s giant slalom, took 22nd and Stiegler finished in 25th, 7.14 seconds behind.”I was all over the place out there,” Kildow said after her first run. “I kept getting ejected. I had one ski up in the air. I had a couple Bode moves.”The team’s frustrations were best exemplified by the plight of Caitlin Ciccone. The 21-year-old, who made her first World Cup start Saturday, put together a clean run but finished 32nd. She was .49 seconds behind 30th place finisher Elisabeth Goergl of Austria.Kaylin Richardson, skiing 35th, was well on her way to making the afternoon session. She held a slight lead after the first split, but a bobble at the bottom cost her. Richardson skied out seven gates from the finish.
“I was a little fatigued, I crossed a few ruts and it got weird,” she said. “I was out of balance for half a second. That’s all it takes in slalom. I was off the course.”I had a little bad luck. It was a fluke thing. There are so many variables in this sport that are out of your control. It happens.”Jenny Lathrop hopes to advance were dashed early. She miscalculated a roll near the top of the course, fell back on the tails of her Dynastars and lost most of her speed. She wound up 38th.”This is my fifth World Cup and I’ve never qualified, so I punched it to see where it put me,” she said. “There were some subtle terrain changes I wasn’t aware of.” Stiegler said she was happy to post a second top-25 finish – she took 20th in giant slalom – considering she couldn’t see through her goggles during warm-ups. Snow and low cloud cover made things difficult for competitors prior to the race’s start.”There were two gates I didn’t set up for, I came in high and was a little off balance,” Stiegler said following her first run. “But just went for it. I fought all the way to the bottom. “This is a tough hill for slalom. There are so many rolls all over the place. You have to be so on top of it.” Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is email@example.comThe Aspen Times, Aspen, Colo.
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