January 4, 2007
ZAGREB, CROATIA - (USST News Bureau Release) - Resi Stiegler (Jackson Hole, WY) finished fifth Thursday night in a World Cup slalom and Julia Mancuso (Olympic Valley, CA) was eighth as four U.S. racers broke into the top 20 as thousands lined the course for the Snow Queen Trophy race.
Marlies Schild of Austria, winning her fourth in five SLs this season, overcame a big mistake at the top of the course, but recovered and poured it on coming down the hill to win by nearly a second and a half. Her winning time was 1:59.40 with Croatia's Ana Jelusic igniting the crowd of about 25,000 at the Sjleme resort outside Croatia's capital by finishing second (2:01.06).
Stiegler, fourth after the first run and coming up with the second-best result of her career, finished fifth with time of 2:01.50 while Julia Mancuso (Olympic Valley, CA) turned-in the fourth-fastest time and jumped up from 17th after the first run to eighth place in 2:02.01. Kaylin Richardson (Edina, MN) was 17th with Lindsey Kildow (Vail, CO) 18th.
"No exception, this is such a great race - its so much fun and it's so good for the sport. The girls love it and they showed it tonight. Two in the top 10, four in the top 20...some good steps forward," said Chris Knight, U.S. women's head SL/giant slalom head coach.
Stiegler's favorite race...again
"They put on a good show and the organizers were great...and the crowd is just fantastic. They get 25, maybe 26,000 people up there along the course and I don't think you could get any more up there," he said.
"For me," Stiegler said, "this is my favorite race of the year. I've been here since the first race (Jan. 20, 2005 - she was 10th). I'd never had a race where there were so many people; we just don't have that anywhere else ... they line the course and it's so enthusiastic. They support everybody and you feel like, 'This is what I wanted to do as a little kid' - even if you don't do well...
"Where I am right now is awesome," she said. "I've never been third or fourth after the first run. It was longer than last year; I felt I was all over the place...I swear it wasn't that long before, so you just had push through.
"And the snow was different - the consistency changed midway from the catchy snow at the top to more of a California sweet...but, whatever, it was fun, like it's always been."
Coach: Low snow means adjustments
Knight said the lack of snow in most of Europe has led organizers to inject snow surfaces, putting water directly into the snow to make the conditions more icy. "Every slope is injected now, so the conditions are new for some of the girls and they're having to adjust."
He was pleased with the U.S. effort, noting Mancuso - who equaled her best slalom finish (2005 World Cup Finals in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, as Sarah Schleper of Vail, CO, won her first World Cup) - has had limited SL training while coming back from hip surgery in the spring. "I think Julia realized she can still ski slalom," he laughed.
"Kaylin's still learning and getting great experience. She was 15th in the first run and then had a three-minute (TV) delay before she got to start her second run, so she looked a little stiff to start her run, but she had some really good sections. It was another good day for her...and Lindsey, after going down her hip in the first run, struggled a bit to re-find her rhythm, but came on strong."
The women head next to Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, for a giant slalom Saturday and another slalom Sunday in races moved from Maribor because of low snow.
For complete results: http://www.fis-ski.com/uk/604/610.html?sector=AL&raceid=43820.