Marlies Schild wins No. 35 for record
LIENZ, Austria -- Overcoming several injury-plagued seasons, Marlies Schild of Austria finally set the best mark for most World Cup slalom victories Sunday by winning her 35th race to overtake Switzerland's Vreni Schneider on top of the all-time list.
The 32-year-old Schild is a four-time World Cup slalom champion, but she missed a host of races after breaking a leg in 2008 and then tore ligaments last year. That meant she was stuck on 33 slalom wins for close to two years until winning in Courchevel, France, this month.
"My 34th win was a weight off my shoulders," Schild said. "Suddenly everything got easier in training though racing is still something different."
Schild got her record-setting win in impressive style. Lying 0.69 seconds behind in sixth after the opening leg, she used a blistering second run to finish in 1 minute, 55.63 seconds and beat American teenager Mikaela Shiffrin, who led the competition after the first run. Shiffrin finished 0.41 behind.
Olympic slalom champion Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany was third, 0.63 behind Schild.
"It was tough for me," said Schild, who celebrated her fourth career win in a Lienz slalom. "I had not a good feeling in the first run. In the second, my skiing felt really well and I just tried to point my skis down."
The victory was Schild's 54th career podium in slalom. She is now tied with fellow Austrian Annemarie Moser-Proell (downhill) for the second most podiums in one discipline. Only another Austrian skier, Renate Goetschl, has more, with 59 top-three finishes in downhill.
Shiffrin has never made a secret of her admiration for Schild, making her defeat by the Austrian bearable.
"I always want to win but she skied better and was faster," Shiffrin said. "I am OK with taking second place. If she skies better, I am all for it. She is still one of my idols and she keeps inspiring me. As long as I am on the podium with her, I am happy."
Shiffrin lost out on the chance to become the youngest winner of five slaloms in one calendar year. At 18 years and 291 days old, the American would have been 67 days younger than Janica Kostelic when the Croatian standout won five slaloms in 2000.
However, the missed record didn't bother Shiffrin too much.
"I am happy with a podium," Shiffrin said, adding "it's a bit disappointing" to lose her first-run lead after failing to find her rhythm in the second.
In two years since getting her first podium here in 2011, Shiffrin has 12 top-three finishes including five wins.
She looked set for her sixth when she took the lead after the first run. In an increasingly heavy rain, Shiffrin was slowed by a mistake as she almost skied out four gates from the finish but still beat the field by 0.22.
"I felt really good and the snow was awesome, so all good," said Shiffrin, who has been dominating slalom racing in 2013, winning the world title and the World Cup discipline title.
Shiffrin maintained her lead in this season's slalom standings with 202 points, two clear of Schild. Hoefl-Riesch went top of the overall standings with 611 points, edging Liechtenstein's Tina Weirather by two as well.
Many racers struggled with the rainy conditions, with Maria Pietilae-Holmner of Sweden and Kathrin Zettel of Austria, who were second and third respectively after the opening run, failing to finish.
Hoefl-Riesch, fourth after the opening run, took full advantage.
"It's a nice feeling," the German said. "Of course I benefited from others not finishing but I am just happy to get to the podium."
Having won the overall title in 2011, Hoefl-Riesch is again one of the main contenders for this season's crystal globe, with four-time champion Lindsey Vonn suffering from a knee injury and defending champion Tina Maze struggling to match her outstanding results from last season.
The Slovenian finished more than three seconds off the lead in 15th.
"The chance to compete for the overall title hasn't been as good for a long time as it is now," said Hoefl-Riesch, who is considering Weirather, Austria's Anna Fenninger en Switzerland's Lara Gut as her main challengers. "Regarding the overall title, it's good to earn points here as my rivals don't do slalom."
The women's World Cup continues with another slalom next Sunday in Bormio, Italy.