Velez Zuzulova wins women’s World Cup Austrain night slalom |

Velez Zuzulova wins women’s World Cup Austrain night slalom

Eric Willemsen and Andrew Dampf
Associated Press
Slovakia's Veronika Velez Zuzulova celebrates at finish line after winning an alpine ski, women's World Cup slalom in Semmering, Austria, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Giovanni Auletta)

SEMMERING, Austria – Veronika Velez Zuzulova of Slovakia upset the favorites to win a World Cup night slalom Saturday for her first career victory.

She trailed overall World Cup leader Tina Maze by 0.55 seconds after the opening leg but overtook the Slovenian with a near-flawless final run. Velez Zuzulova finished in a combined time of 1 minute, 37.28 seconds. Kathrin Zettel of Austria was 0.10 back. Maze was third, 0.20 behind.

The rest of the field finished more than a second behind Velez Zuzulova, who celebrated her victory by lying face-down in the snow in the finish area for about 30 seconds.

“A while ago I was almost thinking that it’s impossible to win one day,” said the 28-year-old Velez Zuzulova, who has been racing on the World Cup circuit since 2000.

The Slovakian, who married her French coach Romain Velez in the offseason, said attacking was her only tactic for the final run.

“After the first run I was really happy,” Velez Zuzulova said. “But the second run was really difficult, as I knew Kathrin had a good time. I had to attack; it was the only way I could win.”

Zettel said she was “super happy” to finish second.

“To get this result in front of your home crowd is such a great feeling,” she said.

Teenager Mikeala Shiffrin of the United States, who led the slalom standings going into the race, straddled a gate and didn’t finish her second run.

Defending overall champion Lindsey Vonn missed the race while recovering from an intestinal illness, and world slalom champion Marlies Schild of Austria is out for three months after knee surgery.

Maze earned her 11th podium finish of the season, took the lead in the slalom standings and extended her overall lead. But she still couldn’t hide her disappointment about losing her commanding first-run lead.

Maze leads the overall World Cup standings with 1,059 points, 427 ahead of Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany, who finished fourth in the night slalom. Vonn is 645 points behind in fifth place.

“I am bit emotional,” Maze said. “The year is ending; I am skiing so good. It’s amazing.”

Vonn has yet to decide if she will return to the circuit for speed racing from Jan. 10-13 at one of her favorite venues, St. Anton, Austria, said U.S. women’s coach Alex Hoedlmoser.

The women’s World Cup continues with two more slaloms – in Munich on Jan. 1 and a night race three days later in Zagreb, Croatia.

BORMIO, Italy – Even in a sport where races are often decided by hundredths of seconds, the results of Saturday’s classic Bormio downhill were so tight that even the most experienced skiers were left stunned.

Hannes Reichelt of Austria and Dominik Paris of Italy shared victory with the same time on the Stelvio course – usually considered the circuit’s most physically demanding – and the top four finishers were separated by a mere two-hundredths of a second in one of the closest finishes ever.

“On a hill as tough as this to have a race that close, that’s surprising,” said overall World Cup leader Aksel Lund Svindal, who finished third. “The crazy thing is we were fast in different sections.”

Paris took the early lead by clocking 1 minute, 58.62 seconds for his first career win and Reichelt matched him to give Austria its first speed win of the season.

Svindal finished 0.01 seconds behind – the smallest possible margin – and Klaus Kroell of Austria was fourth, missing out on a podium finish despite being just 0.02 behind the winners.

“It’s for sure the tightest race I’ve ever been in,” added Svindal, who sat out training Friday with a sore throat. “Obviously 0.01 is extremely tight and you wonder what you could have done to be faster than the winner, but that’s always the case. The race is over. I had a good run and I’ll take third place today.”

It was the ninth time two men tied for victory on the World Cup circuit, but the first time four racers finished within 0.02 of each other – among men or women.

In the super-G at the 1999 world championships in Vail, Colo., Lasse Kjus and Hermann Maier shared victory, with Hans Knauss 0.01 behind in third. However, the fourth-place finisher in that race, Stephan Eberharter, was 0.22 back.

There was also a downhill in Panorama, British Columbia, in 1992 won by William Besse, with Daniel Mahrer and Guenther Mader sharing second – each 0.01 behind. AJ Kitt was fourth in that race, 0.19 behind.

Among the women, there was a three-way victory in a giant slalom in 2002 in Soelden, Austria, between Nicole Hosp, Tina Maze and Andrine Flemmen. But again fourth place was further behind.

Travis Ganong was the top American finisher in seventh, a best-career result.

“When I train I push it to a certain amount and it’s smooth and fast and consistent, and I reached that level today,” Ganong said.

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