Pietilae-Holmner of Sweden wins World Cup slalom
ASPEN – Maria Pietilae-Holmner of Sweden swiftly glided through the tightly set slalom course on the final run to capture her first World Cup event.
Pietilae-Holmner finished Sunday’s two runs in 1 minute, 46.19 seconds, while Germany’s Maria Riesch took second, 0.68 back, and Finland’s Tanja Poutiainen captured third.
Three-time overall World Cup champion Lindsey Vonn turned in two strong runs and wound up eighth, finishing 1.44 seconds behind Pietilae-Holmner. Vonn, of nearby Vail, took a steadier approach Sunday after skiing aggressively the day before in the giant slalom and veering off the course.
Sarka Zahrobska’s reign in the Aspen slalom ended with a 12th-place performance. The Czech Republic skier won this event the last two years.
Austria’s Nicole Hosp, who missed last season with a right knee injury, ended up fifth. She was second after the morning run.
Pietilae-Holmner led the race heading into the afternoon session, but Riesch applied the pressure with a blistering run. The 24-year-old Pietilae-Holmner responded, making few mistakes along the course strewn with quick turns.
“My first win! Ahhhh, I can’t describe it. It brings me to tears,” Pietilae-Holmner said. “I feel super good.”
This was a solid weekend for Riesch, who also finished ninth in the giant slalom Saturday. With her second-place performance in the slalom, she recaptured the early overall lead in the World Cup standings.
“I can be happy with this race,” Riesch said.
For Vonn, this was almost redemption on a course that’s given her fits in recent seasons.
“It’s the hill that never quits,” Vonn said. “This hill is just tough and you try to do the best that you can.”
Julia Mancuso of Squaw Valley, Calif., had her day end early after she hit a rut up top on her first run and had to ski aggressively to make up time. She later skidded off the course.
“I was skiing well,” Mancuso said. “It’s hard when you make a mistake at the beginning, you know you have to pretty much win the rest of the course to make it in there. I was trying to push the line too much.”
Still, Mancuso called it a solid weekend after finishing eighth in the giant slalom Saturday.
“I’m excited,” Mancuso said. “I think my slalom is going well. It’s definitely difficult getting back into race mode and skiing back-to-back races. But I’m getting there.”
Austria’s Marlies Schild, who won the event in Levi, Finland, two weeks ago, straddled the first gate in the morning run and was done, just like that.
“Short day,” said Schild, who captured the silver medal in the slalom at the Vancouver Olympics and bronze at the Turin Games. “This doesn’t happen. Never.”
Resi Stiegler of Jackson Hole, Wyo., was back on the course after three injury-riddled seasons. She skied well enough to finish 25th.
Stiegler said her recent string of crashes has caused her to ski scared, but she’s seeing a sports psychologist to help alleviate her fears.
This performance was a step in the right direction.
“That’s going to take a while. Getting to race every day is going to help,” said the 25-year-old Stiegler, who fractured her left femur in a crash during training last November.
Hosp has looked solid in her return from a knee injury, also finishing fifth in Levi.
The 2007 overall champion missed all of 2009-10 when she crashed at the season-opening giant slalom race on the Rettenbach glacier in Austria.
Sitting out was quite difficult, especially in an Olympic year.
“The week was OK, the weekend when the races were on TV, it was always a hard time,” Hosp said.
Hosp had another scare with her knee in September after crashing again. She took nearly three weeks off to rest the knee and said for the most part it’s holding up.
In January 2009, Hosp broke the upper part of her shinbone and tore ligaments in her left knee in a crash in Zagreb, Croatia.
The recent rash of injuries has only intensified her passion for the sport.
“Not racing one year and the year before, you’re really hot for skiing again and racing again,” Hosp said. “You’re not that strictly focused for just good results. You are happy that you are here and can race.”
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