Marlies Schild felt that the pressure was off after her win in Courcheval and after having placed sixth after the first run, the prospect of winning for a 35th time and being the most successful Slalom racer of all time seemed … distant. Mikaela Shiffrin, the new kid on the block and the one to rise up to the plate in the absence of Schild while she was injured last season, lead after the first run by almost seven tenths. With nothing decided after one run, Schild skied the lower section of the second run in awesome fashion to take win number 35 with Shiffrin having to be content with second and Maria Hoefl-Riesch taking third place, and the lead in the race for the Overall.
The Giant Slalom the day before had been on rock hard snow and the overnight moisture in the air on the lower section of the course had played havoc with the course setting. New snow at the top of the course provided another dimension as well. Shiffrin held a lead of just over two tenths at the end of the first run and yet the way the second run played out was a fitting way for the year to end.
Anne-Sophie Barthet was first racer to really show their hand. Having started 52, the French racer tore into the second run and held the lead for a long time. With the news of injuries ravaging the French team (three racers, all potential medallists for Sochi are out injured), Barthet posted a time that would be good enough for second fastest on the run and it would lift her up to tenth overall.
With 11 to go Christina Geiger took the lead and she was almost immediately beaten by Chiara Costazza. Then Marie-Michelle Gagnon came down and stormed into the lead.
When Marlies Schild took to the course with six to go, you just had the feeling that something special could happen. Schild explained after the race that she did not feel that the upper part of the course had gone well and so decided that she had to push on the lower section. And push she did. With the snow a mix of aggressive snow and wet slush, Schild was clean, tight and very nearly executing perfect turns. It was poetry in motion. By the time she crossed the line the lead had gone out to over a second. We had a race on our hands.
Yet still Schild did not think that she had done enough to win, she admitted to the Austrian Press Officer: “I did not think I had done enough to even get on the podium,” she explained.
Then the luck turned her way: First her younger sister, Bernadette, skied out. Marie Hoefl-Riesch was tentative down the same section that Schild had been attacking and her advantage slipped away. When Zettel and Pietilae-Holmner both crashed out it was down to Shiffrin or Schild for the win.
Seven tenths was the advantage at the start but Shiffrin, who counts Marlies Schild as one of her heroes, started making small errors. As she came over the ridge into the last pitch, the American needed to claw back five hundredths on the Austrian. Having seen the near perfect pitch the Austrian had executed, Shiffrin would need to step on the gas to have a chance. The experience of Schild shone through and Shiffrin admitted afterwards that she was happy for her rival to have won: “I always want to win,” Shiffrin explained, “but Marlies skied faster and I am OK with that.”
In taking third, Hoefl-Riesch has now taken the lead in the Overall by two points from Tina Weirather. The slalom is an important discipline for Hoefl-Riesch as it means she can get points in the race for the Overall. None of her main rivals do the slalom so Hoefl-Riesch is able to pick up points. “With the ups and downs I have had so far this season, I am happy with the way things are going. If I could be more constant then I would would be totally happy,” she explained.
Charlie Guest was not able to qualify and put in a great run until mid way down the final pitch when she went extremely wide on a gate and all chances evaporated.