Zettel leads after 1st run of World Cup slalom

PAT GRAHAM AP Sports Writer Published:

ASPEN, Colo. (AP) -- Kathrin Zettel of Austria leads after the first run of a World Cup slalom that Lindsey Vonn skipped as she recovers from an intestinal illness.

Zettel finished in 52.74 seconds on a sun-splashed course Sunday and holds a slim 0.25-second advantage over Slovenia's Tina Maze, who won the giant slalom the day before. Slalom specialist Marlies Schild of Austria was third.

Schild is seeking her 34th slalom victory, which would match the discipline record of Swiss great Vreni Schneider. Schild captured six of 10 slalom competitions last season.

Teenager Mikaela Shiffrin turned in a technically sound opening run on a difficult course and was the only American to advance with her 10th-place showing. Still, she's nearly two seconds behind Zettel.

"I'm not disappointed with that. But it's definitely not what I was hoping for," the 17-year-old from nearby Vail, Colo., said. "It's a tough course and I didn't handle it the way I was expecting to. Maybe that was my problem -- I was expecting something. I just have to go back to the basics."

Shiffrin was third at the last slalom event in Levi, Finland, a race won by Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany.

Hoefl-Riesch was questionable to even step into the starting gate after bruising her left arm when she crashed Saturday. But she recovered enough to not only race, but race well, winding up in fifth position after the first run.

Vonn is still regaining her strength after a bad stomach bug recently landed her in the hospital. She competed in the giant slalom Saturday -- finishing 21st -- but was clearly winded at the end. She collapsed in the snow after her final run.

Her plan all along was to skip the slalom. The four-time overall champion is conserving energy for next weekend's races in Lake Louise, Alberta, a venue Vonn has typically dominated. She won all three speed races there last season.

Vonn will have some ground to make up with Maze jumping out to a big lead in the overall standings. Maze finished runner-up to Vonn last season.

So far this season, no one is skiing any better than Maze, who already has two wins and a fourth-place finish.

"I'm feeling fit and strong," Maze said. "Everything is going well for me."