Vail’s Schleper 5th in slalom
Associated Press Writer
LIENZ, Austria – Vail’s Sarah Schleper finished fifth and Marlies Schild won a World Cup slalom Tuesday for her first victory since breaking a leg. Vail’s Lindsey Vonn finished 18th after bruising her left arm.
The Austrian led after the opening run and finished in an aggregate time of 1 minute, 57.65 seconds. She topped Sandrine Aubert of France by 1.83 seconds and Kathrin Zettel of Austria was third.
Vonn, the overall World Cup champion, crashed during the giant slalom Monday and injured her arm. Wearing a brace, Vonn said she felt “a lot of pain” but never considered skipping the race. She finished 4.42 seconds back but kept her lead in the overall standings.
“I wanted to race. That’s the way I am. I wanted to fight,” Vonn said. “If there is any way I can ski, I will race.”
Vonn had no obvious mistakes but was well behind Schild in both runs.
“Sure it wasn’t my best. I did what I could,” Vonn said. “I am wearing a brace. It protects but it’s not really helping. My arm hurts a lot. Every time I hit a gate it was really painful in my wrist. My ribs, my side, pretty much my whole left side hurts a bit.”
Schleper was the top American finisher in fifth place. She posted the third-fastest time in the second run.
“This result is more than I could hope for,” said Schleper of her best finish since winning a slalom in March 2005. “I’m so close to the podium going into an Olympic year. I feel I’ve worked really hard this summer.”
The 30-year-old Schleper returned to the World Cup circuit last season after becoming a mother and taking a two-year break.
“She’s been coming in real strong and she has a lot of self-confidence now,” Vonn said. “This is just what she needed. I am really happy for Sarah.”
Schild, the 2007 and ’08 World Cup slalom champion, missed all of last season after breaking her leg in preseason training.
“This is definitely the most beautiful win of my career,” said Schild, who earned her 21st career victory. “I had of lots of hesitations over the past year, but now I am extremely happy.”
She returned to the World Cup circuit with a sixth-place finish last month in Levi, Finland.
“Some of my doubts from these past 14 months were still in me in the first run,” Schild said. “This was the first time I felt really well again during the race.”
Schild held a commanding lead after her flawless opening run on the partly icy Schlossberg course, leaving teammate Zettel 1.02 seconds behind.
Schild didn’t hold back in her second run and extended her margin by 0.81 seconds.
“It’s sensational that she’s already back at this level,” Austrian women’s head coach Herbert Mandl said. “This win will be a great relief to her. She can relax now a bit and probably race even a faster next time.”
Vonn skied the final part of last season with a protective covering on her right thumb after cutting a tendon on a broken champagne bottle in Val d’Isere in February.
“This is like the world championships Part II,” Vonn said. “Though my arm now hurts more than my thumb did last year.”
Vonn said she will have some days off before the next World Cup slalom event Sunday in Zagreb, Croatia. She plans to visit a specialist for a new brace to ease the pain.
“We did what we could in the short time we had, but we can sure do a better job and maybe that will help with the pain,” Vonn said. “I’ll definitely give my hand as much rest as possible ahead of Zagreb.”
World slalom champion Maria Riesch was 3.97 seconds behind Schild in 14th place, enough to retain the lead in the discipline standings.
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