Vonn speeds up but Riesch wins fourth straight slalom | AspenTimes.com

Vonn speeds up but Riesch wins fourth straight slalom

Eric Willemsen
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
Germany's Maria Riesch slaloms past a pole on her way to clock the fastest time during the first run of an alpine ski, Women's World Cup slalom in Maribor, Slovenia, Sunday, Jan. 11, 2009. (AP Photo/Marco Trovati)

MARIBOR, Sloveni ” In the end, Lindsey Vonn left too much ground to make up.

The defending overall and downhill champion put down a blistering second run in a women’s World Cup Slalom on Sunday, but it wasn’t enough to catch Maria Riesch of Germany, who won her fourth straight slalom.

The American had the fastest second leg by far but still finished 2.04 behind Riesch, her close friend.

“It was a fantastic second run,” said Vonn, who celebrated after she finished as if she’d won the race. “I knew it would not be enough to win but it was really nice to get it anyway.”

Vonn earned a tie for fourth with Sweden’s Anja Paerson after finishing 18th in the first run.

In her opening run, Vonn lost considerable speed when she had to adjust her line after almost missing a gate near the end, finishing 2.47 seconds behind Riesch.

The American looked set to win last week’s slalom in Zagreb, Croatia, but went out just shortly before the finish.

Vonn was the only U.S. skier to qualify for the second run. Sarah Schleper and Hailey Duke came just short, but Julia Mancuso was well behind at 51st after losing balance on one ski early in her run.

Riesch extended her lead in the overall World Cup standings. She has 729 points, followed by Finland’s Tanja Poutiainen with 644 and Vonn with 616.

The German is one slalom win short of matching Paerson’s World Cup record of five straight discipline victories. Paerson won five consecutive giant slalom races in 2004.

After a series of technical events, a number of speed races are coming up on the women’s World Cup calendar, starting with a super-combined and a downhill in Altenmarkt-Zauchensee, Austria, next week. That should suit Vonn, a speed specialist who also won last season’s downhill standings.

“Lindsey is better at the downhill,” Riesch said. “I think it’s her turn now and Tanja doesn’t compete in those races. It will be pretty hard for me to keep in touch with Lindsey.”

Riesch held a commanding lead after the opening run and comfortably held off her challengers in the second to finish in a combined time of 1 minute, 29.64 seconds.

Kathrin Zettel of Austria took second, 1.15 seconds behind, while Poutiainen was third, 1.77 back.

“I had some doubts ahead of my second run,” said the 24-year-old Riesch, who now has 10 World Cup victories. “A big lead makes you feel safe but in slalom you can easily go out and I was a bit scared for that. … I am delighted that it worked out well.”

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