Poutiainen leads World Cup slalom after 1st run

LOUISE NORDSTROM Associated Press Published:

LEVI, Finland (AP) -- Local favorite Tanja Poutiainen of Finland had the fastest time in the first run of a women's World Cup slalom Saturday, taking a narrow lead over Germany's Maria Hoefl-Riesch.

Poutiainen finished in 1 minute 0.24 seconds in windy conditions with light snow, 0.30 seconds ahead of Olympic slalom champion Hoefl-Riesch, who showed no signs of a hip injury that has been bothering her.

"So far so good. Let's see, one more run to go," a smiling Poutiainen said after being greeted by a roaring home crowd as she came off the slope. "I had a good feeling the whole week in training, so I was really confident, but of course it's always nice to see it in the race."

But she still faces tough competition from the German, who is feeling very comfortable on Levi's Black piste.

"I'm happy with my performance," she said, adding, "I like this hill. I was on the podium here many times, but we still have a second run and I will try to do as good again."

American teenager Mikaela Shiffrin had an impressive first run, coming in third, 0.54 off the lead.

"Really great. Wonderful," she said. "It felt like training -- which I'm trying to get to: train like I race and race like I train."

Austria's Marlies Schild straddled a gate just before the finish and is out of the race.

"I had a little mistake before the combination and then I was just straight and yeah ... I have to look at it with my coaches."

Schild, the reigning World Cup slalom champion, won the Levi races in both 2006 and 2010 and would have become the first female skier to win three times at the Finnish alpine venue.

Last season, she won six of 10 slaloms and has 33 wins in her career.

Defending overall World Cup champion Lindsey Vonn of the United States skipped the event.

Levi, about 80 miles north of the Arctic Circle, is the world's northernmost World Cup venue. The small ski resort has hosted World Cup slaloms since 2004. Last year, World Cup races here were cancelled because of a lack of snow.