Maria Hoefl-Riesch rallies in slalom
LEVI, Finland -- Olympic champion Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany overcame a hip injury Saturday to win the season's first World Cup slalom, with 17-year-old American Mikaela Shiffrin in third place.
In a race 80 miles north of the Arctic Circle, the northernmost venue on the circuit, Hoefl-Riesch skied an excellent second run to overtake Finland's Tanja Poutiainen, who finished second.
Defending overall World Cup champion Lindsey Vonn skipped the slalom to prepare for races in Aspen, Colo.
Hoefl-Riesch trailed Poutiainen after the first run but had the fastest time in the second for a total time of 1 minute, 55.58 seconds.
"It's amazing. I'm so happy," said Hoefl-Riesch, who also won a slalom in Levi in 2009 and was second in 2010. "I'm already looking forward to next year."
Shiffrin was third last year in a slalom in Lienz, Austria. She was competing for the first time in Levi.
"I'm speechless, really," Shiffrin said. "I couldn't really ask for more. ... This is going to give me a lot of confidence."
Poutiainen led by 0.30 seconds after the first run, raising hopes of a home victory. But she couldn't keep up in the second and finished 0.55 seconds behind Hoefl-Riesch.
"Great to be on the podium with a home race," Poutiainen said
Hoefl-Riesch's training has been limited because of an ailing hip. She said she wasn't getting enough speed on the flat portions of the course.
"So I knew I had to take a lot of risks on the steep," she said. "I had to attack."
Slovenia's Tina Maze, who won the giant slalom in the opener two weeks in Soelden, Austria, was fourth to keep the lead in the overall World Cup standings with 150 points. Hoefl-Riesch is second overall with 124 points and Poutiainen is third with 91.
Austrian slalom specialist Marlies Schild went out in the first run when she straddled a gate just before the finish.
"I had a little mistake before the combination and then I was just straight. ... I have to look at it with my coaches," Schild said.
Schild, the reigning World Cup slalom champion, won the Levi races in 2006 and 2010 and was looking to become the first woman to win three times at the venue. Last season, she won six of 10 slaloms.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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