LIENZ, Austria (Reuters) - Austria’s Marlies Schild became the all-time leader of World Cup slalom victories with her 35th success secured on home snow in Lienz on Sunday.
The former world champion, who overtook the 34 wins of Swiss Vreni Schneider, followed up her victory in Courchevel on December 17 by topping a podium comprising the very best slalom specialists of the decade.
American Mikaela Schiffrin, who dethroned Schild at the world championships in Schladming last season, was second 0.41 seconds adrift, while Olympic champion Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany was third.
“It’s hard to believe but now for sure the record is mine,” Schild said.
”I must admit I felt relieved after Courchevel. I needed to break the jinx. It was making me nervous in the end. Everybody was talking about the record.
“I even noticed in training that there was a before and after Courchevel. I‘m much more relaxed now.”
Schild signaled her return to form in the French resort of Courchevel - her first victory in nearly two years.
The Austrian, who tore knee ligaments in December 2012 in Are, had been usurped at the top of her sport by Shiffrin, who took advantage of her absence to win the world title and the slalom World Cup globe.
The 18-year-old again led the way after the morning run while Schild, her visibility hampered by the rain, had to settle for sixth.
But experience, and the knowledge of the Lienz course on which she had won three times previously, made the difference in the afternoon when the Austrian clocked the fastest time by far.
“Lienz is a special place for me. I lived strong times of my life here like my first victory after my injury in 2008. And now this record…”
Olympic gold is the only gong still eluding the best slalom specialist of all time but at 32, with 12 seasons behind her, Schild is taking nothing for granted.
”There is still one month to go before the Olympics, and even though it is an important stage in the season, it’s useless thinking about it now.
“Only a week ago, I wasn’t even sure I would go!”, she said.
A fierce battle is looming between her, Hoefl-Riesch and Shiffrin in Sochi but Schild, who won the slalom bronze in Turin and the silver in Vancouver, is definitely back, ready to fight and with nothing much left to prove.
”For me a girl like Shiffrin is a great motivation. I must keep up with the younger skiers and I‘m aware that time is not on my side.
“But I give it my all in every race and I can promise you that I‘m not going to take it easy,” she said.
Reporting by Manuele Lang; editing by Justin Palmer