Schleper fourth in Semmering GS
SEMMERING, Austria – Vail’s Sarah Schleper battled through heavy fog Tuesday to finish fourth in a giant slalom as the World Cup resumed after the Christmas break in Austria. Austrian Marlies Schild overtook first-run leader Tanja Toutiainen of Finland for the second win of her World Cup career.Schild’s winning time was 2 minutes, 15.97 seconds with Poutiainen, the women’s World Cup points leader, second in 2:16.08. Another Austrian, Elisabeth Goergl, was third in 2:17.53.The win came in front of a home crowd for Schild, who just six days prior crashed into a pole during a race in Switzerland and bit off part of her tongue. Schleper, sixth in the morning run and the lone American to break the top-30 cutoff, finished in 2:17.68.
The fourth-place finish is the best result of the young season for the nine-year U.S. Ski Team vet and her top performance since finishing fifth last February in another GS in Zwiesel, Germany.”It was definitely thick fog,” coach Trevor Wagner said. “You could barely see the gate above and the gate below where you stood on the course. And it was definitely clearer for some people. Sarah did great. She skied as fast as she could for the conditions. It was pretty tough, but she let it go.”Schleper stayed in Austria during the Christmas holiday to focus on training and free-skied Monday.’Over and forgotten’
Schild was hurt during the first run of a giant slalom in St. Moritz, Switzerland, last week. She smacked into a pole and was hit in the throat, causing her to bite her tongue and leaving her with a bruised face.”That’s over and forgotten,” she said. “I have been in great form all season, so the odd crash does not cost me any self-confidence.”Schild’s boyfriend is Austrian ski star Benjamin Raich, who is currently second in the men’s overall standings.”It is good that my boyfriend is doing the same as I do. We are keeping our fingers crossed for each other, and that is an additional motivation,” Schild said. “Nonetheless, I had to learn winning all by myself. And winning here is even greater because, on the one hand, you are excited about the atmosphere and the fans but, on the other, the pressure is enormous.”Schild, a slalom specialist, became the first Austrian to win at Semmering since Anita Wachter in 1998. Schild finished the first run in second place, 0.14 seconds behind Poutiainen.
“I have had good runs this season but never managed to do the trick twice in a race,” Schild said.Schild is the first Austrian to win a technical event this season. Poutiainen, Sweden’s Anja Paerson and Slovenia’s Tina Maze won the previous giant slaloms.Poutiainen, who skipped two races before Christmas because of a sore back, reclaimed the lead in the World Cup standings after Paerson crashed out in the second leg.”The course was very steep and really narrow in the first section,” Poutiainen said. “Due to the fog, you could only see from one gate to the next, maximum.”Poutiainen has 566 points after 12 races, 69 ahead of Paerson. Janica Kostelic of Croatia, who finished fifth, is third overall with 443 points. The top American in the standings is Vail’s Lindsey Kildow in sixth place, while Schild is ninth.
Paerson, the defending World Cup champion, has not had a top-three finish at Semmering since her debut on the World Cup circuit in 1998.”I have no chance to win the overall title,” she said. “But I will fight hard for the slalom and the giant slalom.”The women run slalom Wednesday and then have a break until another GS and slalom Feb. 8-9 in Berchtesgaden, Germany.The Associated Press contributed to this report.Vail Colorado