The fall and rise of Queen of Slalom

Winning 12 of 20 races since 2009, Austrian Marlies Schild looks set to become greatest female slalom skier of them all.

    Schild takes 1st place during the Alpine Ski World Cup Women's Slalom on December 20, 2011 [GALLO/GETTY] 

    Marlies Schild's recent dominance in slalom races can be explained, in part, by a preseason crash that broke her left leg three years ago.

    Schild was a contender for victories in all five World Cup disciplines until then, but the injury forced her to scrap the more physically demanding speed races and focus fully on technical events.

    Schild has been close to unstoppable in slalom ever since, winning 12 of 20 races in the discipline after returning to the circuit in late 2009 - including six of eight in the World Cup this year along with the world championship title.

    Part of the reason for her dominance seems to be that Schild is just happy to be able to ski again.

    "I am trying not to put as much pressure on myself as before (the injury), to be more relaxed,'' she said.

    "Technically, I am not a different racer, it's more a mental issue.''

    Schild earned her 30th career slalom win last week and is now just four victories away from Swiss great Vreni Schneider's record. She could get another one Thursday on the same Hochstein course in Lienz where she celebrated her first victory after the comeback.

    But she's trying not to let the hunt for Schneider's mark put any added pressure on her.

    "I know expectations are sky-high and, of course, I want to win every race,'' she said.

    "I try to forget about it and just focus on what I have to do. That works at the push of a button, I don't need any rituals going into a race. At course inspection, at warmups, at the start, I always have a clear mind.''

    Role model

    Austria women's head coach Herbert Mandl said overcoming the injury has made Schild stronger both on and off the course.

    "It was a lot of hard work, and she has gone through a lot of pain, even when she started racing again,'' Mandl said.

    "She is a role model in every respect - as an athlete as well as a person. She's very valuable to the team as she has shown us all how to get back from injuries or other lows in a career.''

    In the years just before the injury ruled her out for a whole season, Schild had four podium finishes in downhill and super-G, making her a contender for the overall title.

    "It was a lot of hard work, and she has gone through a lot of pain, even when she started racing again"

    Austria's head coach Herbert Mandl

    Now Mandl expects Schild to return to speed racing in the near future.

    "The speed disciplines have disappeared because of the injury,'' Mandl said.

    "She has done great to get back to the world top in slalom and she's on her way to do the same in GS. I am sure she then will get back into speed racing as well. She has so much fun in racing and in training."

    However, Schild was more reluctant to speculate on a possible return to downhill and super-G.

    "At the moment, it's no issue. Surely not this season, but I won't rule it out forever,'' Schild said.

    "My body is grateful that I don't compete in all disciplines anymore. It's good to have time to regenerate, to train, to
    test material in-between races. To me, that's more fun at the moment than hurrying from one race to another.''

    SOURCE: AP


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