Winter sports: Slovakian shocks Slovenian in slalom on Austrian slopes
Semmering, Austria • Veronika Velez Zuzulova of Slovakia upset the favorites to win a World Cup night slalom Saturday for her first career victory.
She trailed overall World Cup leader Tina Maze by 0.55 seconds after the opening leg but overtook the Slovenian with a near-flawless final run. Velez Zuzulova finished in a combined time of 1 minute, 37.28 seconds. Kathrin Zettel of Austria was 0.10 back. Maze was third, 0.20 behind.
The rest of the field finished more than a second behind Velez Zuzulova, who celebrated her victory by lying face-down in the snow in the finish area for about 30 seconds.
"A while ago I was almost thinking that it's impossible to win one day," said the 28-year-old Velez Zuzulova, who has been racing on the World Cup circuit since 2000.
The Slovakian, who married her French coach Romain Velez in the offseason, said attacking was her only tactic for the final run.
"After the first run I was really happy," Velez Zuzulova said. "But the second run was really difficult, as I knew Kathrin had a good time. I had to attack; it was the only way I could win." Zettel said she was "super happy" to finish second.
"To get this result in front of your home crowd is such a great feeling," she said.Teenager Mikeala Shiffrin of Vail, Colo., who led the slalom standings going into the race, was in fourth place after the first run but straddled a gate and didn't finish her second run.
Defending overall champion Lindsey Vonn missed the race while recovering from an intestinal illness, and world slalom champion Marlies Schild of Austria is out for three months after knee surgery.
Maze earned her 11th podium finish of the season, took the lead in the slalom standings and extended her overall lead.
In Bormio, Italy, Hannes Reichelt of Austria and Dominik Paris of Italy shared a downhill victory in one of the closest races in skiing history, with the top four finishers separated by a mere two-hundredths of a second. Paris took the early lead by clocking 1 minute, 58.62 seconds for his first career win and Reichelt matched him to give Austria its first speed win of the season.
Overall World Cup leader Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway finished third, 0.01 seconds behind the smallest possible margin. Klaus Kroell of Austria was fourth, missing out on a podium finish despite being just 0.02 behind the winners.
The top American finisher was Travis Ganong in seventh for his best career result.
Kikkan Randall of the United States claimed her second cross-country World Cup victory of the season when she won the prologue event of the Tour de Ski in Oberhof, Germany. Randall clinched the 3.1-kilometer sprint by leaving Charlotte Kalla of Sweden 4.4 seconds behind. World Cup leader Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland was third.
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