Lindsey Vonn crashes out of slalom

COURCHEVEL, France -- Marlies Schild of Austria flew down the Courchevel course to win her second World Cup slalom of the season Tuesday, while overall leader Lindsey Vonn and rival Maria Riesch crashed out in their first runs.

Schild was in second place behind Finland's Tanja Poutiainen after the first run and laid down a faultless second run to finish in a combined time of 1 minute, 34.95 seconds, 0.78 ahead of Poutiainen.

It was the 25th World Cup win for the two-time Olympic slalom medalist, who also won the slalom at Levi, Finland, last month.

"It was a really good performance," Schild said. "I was skiing really hard on the limit on the flat part. I always try to make speed, get faster."

Slovenia's Tine Maze was a distant third, 1.98 behind Schild.

"You can see she is really a perfect slalom skier," Maze said. "If she [does] a good run, it's hard to beat her."

Julia Mancuso of the United States placed 21st, nearly five seconds behind Schild.

"It was like a survival first run, I just got pretty lucky," Mancuso said. "I wanted to be solid, but I guess I kind of needed to be a little faster. Then, a lot of girls went out, [so] I made it in there."

She was much better on her second run, clocking 48.26 after the opening 51.27.

Vonn and Riesch were among the 23 of 69 skiers who failed to finish the first run on the highly technical Stade Emile Allais course that Schild made look easy despite a sore left shoulder.

Maze took the lead on her second run, then Schild blistered the course on hers, chopping 1.26 seconds off Maze's time at the first split and a massive 2.10 at the next.

That put the pressure on Poutiainen, who appeared unwilling to take risks in a bid to beat Schild's time and skied for second place.

Under cloudy conditions in the morning, Vonn successfully negotiated the difficult top section before hooking a tip on a gate. Her right ski came off and she stood still for a few seconds and then shrugged her shoulders and waved her arms in frustration.

"It's all about tactics and staying ahead of it, I thought I was doing a pretty good job. Maybe too ahead of it and I was just too early with my pressure and hooked a tip," the American said. "It's a fine line, you have to try to be arcing as much as you can, but try and stay ahead of it. If you get behind you're in trouble, if you're too far ahead you're in trouble."

The setbacks did not hurt Vonn or Riesch in the overall standings.

Vonn leads with 581 points after winning the downhill and super-combined last weekend in dominant fashion at Val d'Isere. Riesch, of Germany, has 578 and Elisabeth Goergl of Austria is third with 366.

"I think I got lucky because Maria went out as well today," Vonn said.

Courchevel had not hosted a race since 1979, and fans packing the side and the bottom of the course made their presence felt, reserving a huge roar for French slalom champion Nastasia and then for Schild.

"I love it here, the town is great, the people are awesome. There are a ton of people here cheering loud for every racer," Vonn said. "I actually love the hill, it's a perfect hill."

However, fans saw almost as many crashes as impressive performances, with former Olympic slalom champion Anja Paerson also failing to finish.

"It's a very tricky course. I mean, honestly, it's a course that is [meant] to take people out," Vonn said. "It's unfortunate because I don't think it looks very good on TV, and for the athletes it's not as fun."

The course proved too much even for reigning Olympic slalom champion Riesch, who was coming off a miserable weekend at Val d'Isere, where she was 24th in downhill.

The German was 0.13 ahead at the first time split Tuesday, but then her skis went sideways and she missed a gate halfway down, falling face-first into the snow.

With a slalom and a giant slalom scheduled here next year, Vonn and Riesch will get another chance to figure it out.

For now, they can reconcile their misfortune over Christmas together.

"I'm going to Maria's house, I've been doing it for six years now," Vonn said. "It's a tradition."

Despite challenging for supremacy on the piste, the two are anything but bitter rivals.

"We're great friends, we lead very similar lives and I think that's why we can relate so well to each other," Vonn said. "I don't really think of her as my rival, I just try and win races. I support her no matter what and if someone beats me, it might as well be my best friend."