Schild wins Courchevel slalom in dominant style |

Schild wins Courchevel slalom in dominant style

Jerome Pugmire
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
Austria's Marlies Schild competes on her way to set the fastest time during the first run of an alpine ski, women's World Cup slalom, in Courchevel, France, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2011. (AP Photo/Marco Trovati)

COURCHEVEL, France – Marlies Schild dominated her rivals and the treacherous Courchevel course on Sunday to win her second straight slalom race of the season, setting her up perfectly for a hat trick bid on home snow next week in Austria.

Schild won by more than a second in Aspen, Colo., last month, and this time her margin of victory was even greater. She finished 1.87 ahead of Finland’s Tanja Poutiainen and a massive 2.19 clear of Austria’s Kathrin Zettel.

“Not really surprised … I know I can ski slalom very fast,” Schild said. “The second run was more difficult for me, but it worked really good. I like the slope here.”

Schild can make it three out of three in slaloms this season if she wins Tuesday’s race in Flachau.

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“Of course my goal is to win the race,” the 30-year-old Schild said. “What makes me so fast? I always try to get a good feel for the race, every slope. I have a lot of experience over the last years, and maybe a good feeling.”

Schild, who also won at Courchevel last year, would have been faster if she hadn’t wobbled halfway down the crumbly Stade Emile Allais course that claimed 18 racers in the first run, including overall World Cup leader Lindsey Vonn.

“Of course Marlies is really strong and a step ahead of us, but we will take up the challenge,” said Poutiainen, who was also second behind Schild at Courchevel last year. “I seem to like this place, it’s a good hill for me. We know it was not easy for organizers to get this race ready.”

Defending World Cup champion Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany was second in her first run despite jarring her knee, but lost her balance and fell in the second.

The second run started in bright, early afternoon sunshine with the temperature at 27 degrees and the snow still chalky and relatively soft.

Canada’s Marie-Michele Gagnon and Austria’s Bernadette Schild stood eighth and ninth respectively after the first run, but both had trouble at the same section halfway through their second.

They were not alone.

Slovakia’s Veronika Zuzulova, fourth after the first run, caught the inside of a ski on a gate and went wide and out of contention. The same thing then happened to Sweden’s Maria Pietilae-Holmner, who was third after the morning run.

Then it was Hoefl-Riesch’s turn to falter, her body swaying to the left as she mistimed a gate.

But this made little difference to Schild who, despite the cushion of a comfortable lead over Zettel and Poutiainen, still attacked the course aggressively from the outset.

Pietilae-Holmner was second in Aspen, with Hoefl-Riesch third. With them both missing out on podiums, Schild’s lead in the slalom standings is already considerable. She is 70 points ahead of Poutiainen and 95 up on Zettel.

American Julia Mancuso did not start because she picked up a stomach bug on Saturday and wasn’t feeling well, and is also likely to miss the events in Flachau.

Vonn has promised a more aggressive approach to slalom this season, and the American looked well set to finish in the top five. The three-time World Cup winner was .68 seconds behind Schild’s time at the first time split and .79 back at the second, but then pushed a bit too hard and missed a gate.

“My coaches radioed up that they were putting water on the course because it was breaking up at the bottom,” Vonn said. “I just felt like I hit a wet patch of snow and my skies kind of slid, and it was too late to recover it.

“It was the peely, slushy feeling you get. The top part of the course was absolutely perfect, considering everything, they did a great job.”

Despite the setback, Vonn saw some encouraging signs that her slalom is coming on.

“I’m really happy with my run, I looked at the times and I was only eight-tenths out on the second split,” Vonn said. “It was definitely really positive. For (having) not (trained) in a week, it’s not so bad. I’m trying to get my slalom back on form and so far it’s going well.”

Vonn already has 522 World Cup points and a huge overall lead – Germany’s Viktoria Rebensburg is second with 286.

Vonn is also tied for third in World Cup race wins with Renate Goetschl on 46.

Olympic and world downhill champion Vonn is trying to wrestle back the World Cup title she lost by three points last season to Hoefl-Riesch – previously known as just Riesch before getting married in the offseason.

The slalom had been moved from Saturday to Sunday because the snow was not compact enough and parts of the course were too soft, with the snow cracking around the gates. Workers labored overnight to prepare the course, but it still seemed problematic and got the better of some experienced skiers.

Austria’s Nicole Hosp, Italy’s Manuela Moelgg and Sarka Zahrobska of the Czech Republic all went out in the morning.

Hosp went well wide and her left ski shot up in the air, Moelgg stumbled, and Zahrobska was eliminated after missing a gate near the bottom.

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