Austria’s Marlies Schild produced a superb comeback to secure a record 35th World Cup slalom victory in front of an adoring home crowd in Lienz on December 29 – although she was outshone by world title holder Mikaela Shiffrin in Bormio (ITA) the following week.
Schild, a silver medalist in Vancouver, was down in sixth position after her opening run in Lienz, but produced an outstanding second run to finish 0.41 seconds ahead of Shiffrin (USA). The 32 year-old became only the second woman to win 35 or more World Cup races in one discipline, and will equal compatriot Annemarie Moser-Pröll’s overall record with one more victory.
"It is just amazing,” beamed Schild. “Tying the record in Courchevel took some pressure off. But I was still very nervous today. It is always special to race at home. I can't say more that I am extremely happy right now."
Shiffrin, who is still just 18, regained the limelight on Sunday with a convincing display in the Italian resort, earning her sixth career victory and 13th podium after finishing 0.13 seconds ahead of Swede Maria Pietilae-Holmner. Schild finished in sixth position, two behind her sister Bernadette, but Shiffrin opened up a 62-point gap between the two on the slalom leaderboard.
Cheshire and Yarnold strike gold for GB
Great Britain’s preparations for Sochi 2014 received a double boost in the form of two impressive early New Year victories – fewer than five weeks before the curtain rises on the Olympic Winter Games.
Teenager Rowan Cheshire took top billing with a superb gold medal in the Calgary FIS Freestyle halfpipe World Cup event on Friday, January 3. The 18 year-old made history by becoming the first British female skier to win at this level, taking the honours in the season’s third event by posting a score of 80.40 in her first run. Cheshire finished ahead of reigning world champion Virginie Faivre (SUI) and third-placed Amy Sheehan (AUS) – 13 and nine years her senior respectively – and now sits second on the overall leaderboard behind the USA’s Devin Logan. With one World Cup event still to take place, in Northstar (USA) this weekend, Cheshire’s presence in Sochi will be guaranteed if she retains a place inside the top 24.
"It is so amazing," she said. "I had a bit of a bad crash in practice, but I tried to pull it together in the competition even though my heart was racing, and I'm so glad I was able to do that and get my run down how I wanted to.”
The following day, there was further success for Cheshire’s compatriot, Lizzy Yarnold, at the skeleton World Cup event in Winterberg (GER). Yarnold clinched her third win of the season, and her fifth podium finish out of five, producing a fine second run to edge Noelle Pikus-Pace (USA) into second. Unsurprisingly, the 25 year-old heads this season’s rankings – sitting on 1,085 points, 225 clear of Pikus-Pace. Fellow Briton Shelley Rudman lies in third place with 848 points.
Loch consolidates luge leadership
Olympic champion Felix Loch was in typically imperious form at the luge World Cup event in Koenigssee (GER) on Sunday, racking up a big winning margin to triumph on his home track.
Loch secured his third win of the season, and his 16th individual World Cup victory, ensured that close rival Armin Zoeggeler did not have too much to celebrate the day after his 40th birthday, finishing 0.863 seconds clear of the Italian – who produced a remarkable 102nd podium finish of an illustrious career.
The German was delighted to get back to winning ways on familiar territory, but sought to play down the emphatic nature of his victory. “The last time I claimed a top podium finish here in Koenigssee was three years ago,” he said. “It’s true that today’s winning margin is enormous. But I don’t think that it’ll always be this way.”
The pair sit together at the top of the World Cup standings, Loch out on 489 points and Zoeggeler – twice an Olympic champion himself - in second place on 421 points.
Information on tickets for Sochi 2014 is available here: :http://www.olympic.org/news/sochi-2014-olympic-winter-games-tickets/190291