Riesch wins slalom; Vonn leads World Cup | AspenTimes.com

Riesch wins slalom; Vonn leads World Cup

Eric Willemsen
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
Lindsey Vonn, of the United States, celebrates at finish line after taking third place in an alpine ski, Women's World Cup Slalom race, in Semmering, Austria, Monday, Dec. 29, 2008. (AP Photo/Giovanni Auletta)

SEMMERING, Austria ” Lindsey Vonn goes into 2009 leading the overall World Cup standings. The best slalom racer, however, is friend Maria Riesch of Germany.

Riesch won a night slalom Monday for her second victory of the season and eighth of her career. Vonn placed third to stay first in the overall standings with 530 points. The Minnesota skier is 23 points ahead of Riesch.

Vonn, the defending overall champion, was 1.18 seconds behind after the opening leg and had the second-fastest time in a solid final run to narrow the gap with Riesch to 0.72.

“I am happy for Maria but I am a bit disappointed about losing the red bib (for leading the slalom standings),” Vonn said. “I hope to get it back soon.”

Riesch, who led after the first run, overcame a big error in her second and finished the two runs in 1 minute, 55.97 seconds. Tanja Poutiainen of Finland was second, 0.21 behind. Austria’s Kathrin Zettel, who won Sunday’s giant slalom, took fourth, 0.93 back.

Hailey Duke of Boise, Idaho, finished eighth for her best World Cup result.

“I love night races ” that’s the time when I wake up. Mornings are no good for me,” Duke said. “I keep working on my skiing technically and tactically and there is still a lot of room for improvement.”

Julia Mancuso, who missed a lot of training in the fall because of a sore back, finished 16th.

“I am excited, things are getting better,” Mancuso said. “I wanted to make two decent slalom runs and I got them, so I am happy. I still need a bit more training, I guess, to get really back to my best.”

On the steep part of the Panorama course, Riesch lost her balance on one ski and almost came to a standstill. But her lead of 0.53 over Poutiainen from a flawless first run proved enough.

“Incredible, the slalom goes really perfect this season,” said Riesch, who also won in La Molina, Spain, two weeks ago and who overtook Vonn atop the discipline standings. Riesch has 300 points, Vonn 290.

“It’s not much, 10 points,” Riesch said. “I am going to get well prepared for the upcoming slaloms in Zagreb and Maribor.”

Austria’s Marlies Schild dominated the slalom the past two seasons. She is out for the season after breaking her left leg in training in October and was a spectator Monday.

Poutiainen took second in 2004 and third in 2006 on this course. She posted the fourth-best time in the final leg.

“Semmering is a good place for me,” she said. “I have been here so many times before and have always done well. Next time I will try to do even one better.”

Slalom world champion Sarka Zahrobska of the Czech Republic was fifth, and 2006 Olympic slalom champion Anja Paerson of Sweden finished 14th after a disappointing second run.

The women’s World Cup circuit resumes with a slalom in Zagreb, Croatia, on Jan. 4.

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