Marlies Schild maintained her perfect record of winning every slalom race she has completed this season on Saturday to put a golden seal on her brilliant career at the world championships.
Victory at a worlds or Olympics had always eluded the 29-year-old Austrian despite having the second-highest total of World Cup wins, but she finally topped the podium by edging out teammate Kathrin Zettel.
Sweden’s in-form Maria -Pietilae-Holmner, who won a silver medal in the giant slalom at home in Are in 2007, took the bronze after picking up a place on her second descent.
Zettel finished 0.34 seconds behind over two runs on the Gudiberg course to complete the domination of the championships by Austrian women who bagged four of the five gold medals.
“This is far more than just another medal in my collection,” Schild told reporters after winning in a combined time of 1 minute 45.79 seconds. “This is everything I was looking for, all I needed. Whatever you might think, a gold medal is something else.”
Despite her victory Schild’s immediate thoughts were for boyfriend Benjamin Raich, who tore his knee ligaments in the team event three days ago.
“It’s important in the hard times we’re going through,” she said. “I was very sad about Benni’s injury and I still am.”
The Salzburg skier has had her own bitter experience with injuries, with knee damage keeping her out of action two seasons ago before she returned to become the world’s most prolific slalomist still on the tour.
Only Switzerland’s Vreni Schneider stands in front of her total of 26 World Cup slalom wins.
“I was one of the favorites, but it was a very tough race, without a second to relax,” said Schild, who since returning from her knee problems has won every slalom she had finished except one — the Olympic race in Whistler when she lost to Germany’s Maria Riesch.
Riesch, the Garmisch-born defending champion, lost her crown in front of her home crowd and even missed the podium, finishing fourth, leaving the host country without a gold medal with only the men’s slalom race left yesterday.