Tue, Jan 06, 2009 - Page 18 News List

Riesch wins again, Vonn crashes out

AP , ZAGREB

Matti Hautamaeki of Finland jumps during the FIS World Cup Four Hills ski jump competition in Innsbruck, Austria, on Sunday.

PHOTO: AFP

Maria Riesch of Germany won her third straight World Cup slalom race on Sunday after first-leg leader Lindsey Vonn crashed just five gates before the finish.

The 24-year-old Riesch finished in a combined time of 1 minute, 58.69 seconds on the icy Crveni Spust course and overtook Vonn to lead the overall World Cup standings for the first time in her career.

“I didn’t ski that great today and Lindsey was the strongest,” Riesch said. “I was lucky she went out. Winning was just a present for me.”

Nicole Gius of Italy was second, 0.44 seconds behind, and slalom world champion Sarka Zahrobska of the Czech Republic took third, 0.63 seconds behind Riesch.

Vonn led after the opening leg and was 0.94 seconds faster than Riesch at the second intermediate time in the final run before she hit a gate with the finish in sight and crashed. She was not injured.

“So many things can happen in a second and your day is done,” said Vonn, who went down fast because she wasn’t aware of her massive lead over Riesch.

“I wasn’t sure about the time while I was skiing,” the American said. “I heard ‘one second’ and I thought I was one second behind for sure as I had a mistake at the top. I would have slowed down a bit had I known that I was a second ahead.”

Riesch didn’t believe she had a chance of winning after completing her second run.

“My plan was to attack, but I just didn’t feel confident,” said Riesch, who trailed Vonn by 0.43 seconds after the opening leg. “I had a mistake early on and the conditions were very difficult.”

In the overall standings, Riesch leads with 607 points, followed by Tanja Poutiainen of Finland, who finished seventh, with 543 points and Vonn with 530 points.

“These three wins are starting to make me nervous,” Riesch said. “The expectations get really high now and a lot of people expect me to win every race.”

Gius earned the fourth podium finish of her career, but has yet to win a race.

“I didn’t feel too well in my first run, but had a much better second,” Gius said. “It hasn’t been easy for me since Chiara [Costazza] went out injured early in the season, as many people expected me take over her role.”

Zahrobska won the slalom in Aspen, Colorado, in November and is third in the discipline standings behind Riesch and Vonn.

“Everything is still open,” Zahrobska said. “I am happy to be back on the podium and hopefully that makes me confident for the upcoming races.”

Veronika Zuzulova of Slovakia, who was third going into the final run, also crashed shortly before the finish.

Nicole Hosp of Austria, the 2007 overall champion, crashed and hurt her left knee during the warm-up and didn’t start. She was hospitalized and wwas expected to be out of action for six weeks.

No Americans earned World Cup points — Vonn and Hailey Duke didn’t finish their second runs, Julia Mancuso was out after losing control of a ski early in her opening run, Kaylin Richardson was disqualified for a gate error and Sarah Schleper did not qualify for the final leg.

■ SKI JUMP

AFP, INNSBRUCK,AUSTRIA

Wolfgang Loitzl of Austria won the third stage of the annual Four Hills event in Innsbruck on Sunday to move to the brink of overall glory ahead of today’s final contest in Bischofshofen.

Loitzl, seeking to give his nation its first triumph since 2000, took a big step toward landing the Four Hills title having won the second stage at Garmisch-Partenkirchen in southern Germany on New Year’s day to bag his first major win.

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