Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Germany’s Riesch stretches World Cup lead

American Bode Miller celebrates his third-place finish in Sunday’s Munich men’s parallel slalom. Courtesy photo by Getty Images/Bongarts-Sandra Montanez

By the U.S. Ski Team and Idaho Mountain Express

Germany's Maria Riesch stretched her overall Audi FIS World Cup women's lead over U.S. ace Lindsey Vonn to 186 points with a second-place finish in Tuesday's women's slalom at Zagreb, Croatia.

Riesch had the second-fastest second run to finish .75 seconds behind World Cup slalom leader Marlies Schild of Austria. Schild (400 slalom points) won her fourth slalom of the season. Riesch stands in second place for slalom at 320.

Vonn DNFd the first run at Zagreb and held steady at 647 points, good for second place in the overall standings. Riesch has 833, and Schild climbed to sixth place overall with 400 points. American Julia Mancuso is ninth with 354. She also DNFd Tuesday's first SL run.

In the men's standings, Austria's Michael Walchhofer (409 points) leads the way over Silvan Zurbriggen of Switzerland (395). American Ted Ligety is third with 336 points. With his third-place finish in Sunday's Munich parallel slalom, Bode Miller gained 60 points and eight places—moving to 12th place in the standings with 195.

The White Circus stays at Zagreb for men's slalom Thursday, Jan. 6.

Parallel slalom at Munich

Over 25,000 fans were on hand to see five-time Olympic medalist Bode Miller (Franconia, NH) finish third ahead of local favorite Felix Neureuther in the Audi FIS Alpine World Cup city event Sunday at Munich, Germany.

Croatian Ivica Kostelic knifed the late rounds for the men's victory while Swede Maria Pietilae-Holmer took the women's crown.

"I could hear all 25,000 people because they were so close," Miller told reporters after the race. "But then again, 25,000 people hated the one who beat Felix. It was cool to hear them cheer for him."

Miller earned 60 points towards the World Cup overall chase and a cool $21,000. Julien Lizeroux of France was second after bumping good friend Ted Ligety (Park City, UT) in the opening round.

Tina Maze of Slovenia and Austrian Elisabeth Goergl finished 2-3 for the women.

After starting the evening with a .31 deficit in the opening round to Austrian downhiller Michael Walchhofer, Miller found his rhythm to oust both Walchhofer and eventually Benjamin Raich in the quarterfinal. His first run deficit to Raich was a full half second after straddling a gate in their first duel.

"I hit the start every time, but not making mistakes is the most important," said Miller, who was also third in the 2009 exhibition parallel slalom in Moscow. "With a short course, you've also got to be fast out of the start. Then it helps to have good tempo have to be really balanced—it's mostly timing."

The top 15 men and women in the World Cup starting list points earned the invitation to compete in Munich with the host country earning another two starts to round out the field with 16 racers per gender.

All qualifiers earned World Cup overall points with 15 points going to athletes with first-round loses, 30 points were given to athletes who made the quarterfinals and 50, 60, 80 and 100 points being awarded to the 4th-1st place finishers in that order.

With colored lights swirling and DJs pulsating music throughout the Munich Olympic Park, the enormous crowd boomed for each duel, showing that German fans are charged for the 2011 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships set for next month in nearby Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

Munich is also a finalist for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games bid, which will be announced in July.

"It was really fun, the atmosphere was amazing," said Lindsey Vonn (Vail, CO), whose handprints were immortalized Saturday night in the Munich Olympic Park Walk of Fame. "There were so many people and I've never seen an event like this before, it was definitely a fun night."

Vonn gained ground in the women's overall chase by advancing to the quarterfinal with a stunning first round win over German Susanne Riesch before falling short to the eventual winner Pietilae-Holmer.

Vonn's 30-point day cut 15 points on her deficit to Susanne's older sister Maria, who made a first round exit.

Julia Mancuso (Squaw Valley, CA) and Ligety also missed out on advancing past the first round as a young Anna Fenninger from Austria had her starts nailed.

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