The bruises were still visible in her face, but they could not stop Marlies Schild from celebrating.
The 23-year-old Austrian slalom specialist won a World Cup giant slalom on the Hirschenkogel course Tuesday in front of nearly 20,000 ecstatic fans, leading a strong Austrian team.
Schild completed the technically challenging course in a two-run aggregate time of 2 minutes, 15.97 seconds, 0.11 seconds ahead of Finland's Tanja Poutiainen, who regained the lead in the overall standings with a second-place finish. Fellow Austrian Elisabeth Goerg finished third in 2:17.53.
"I cannot believe that I have won a giant slalom," said Schild, who became the first Austrian to win at Semmering since Anita Wachter in 1998.
Last week, Schild crashed into a pole on the first run of a giant slalom in St. Moritz, Switzerland, and bit off a piece of her tongue.
"That's over and forgotten. I have been in great form all season, so the odd crash did not cost me any self-confidence," Schild said.
Schild had a training session with Goergl and Poutiainen on Monday, and the extra effort paid off.
"I have had good runs previously, but never managed to do the trick twice in a race. Intense training yesterday certainly helped," she said.
Schild is the first Austrian to win a technical event this season. Poutiainen, Sweden's Anja Paerson and Slovenian Tina Maze won the previous giant slaloms. The Austrian team, had five skiers in the top fifteen despite not specializing in the discipline.
"I made a couple of mistakes in the first half of the final run and so I pushed even more," said Schild, who finished the first run in second place, 0.14 seconds behind Poutiainen.
Schild's second World Cup win after a slalom victory in Sestriere, Italy, last March has made her the favorite in Wednesday's slalom on the Hirschenkogel course.
"Slalom is certainly my best discipline. Now that I have already got my podium finish at Semmering, I can be cool about tomorrow."
Poutiainen, who skipped two races before Christmas due to a sore back, regained 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. Schild is ninth with 237 points.
Skiing to a new best finish time, Maze, who won a giant slalom in St. Moritz just before Christmas, spun in a gate and only finished a disappointed 23rd.
Paerson and Austria's Renate Goetschl, third respectively fourth after the first run, both crashed just after setting best intermediate times.
Paerson, the defending World Cup champion, has not managed a podium finish at Semmering since her debut on the World Cup circuit in March 1998. She has 265 points in the giant slalom standings and has lost her lead in the discipline to Poutiainen, who has 305.
"I have no chance to win the overall title but I will fight hard for the slalom and the giant slalom," said Poutiainen.
The race was in danger after heavy snowfall during the night, and while the fresh snow was a factor in the first run, fog handicapped the skiers in the second despite the floodlights.