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Canada's Mielzynski wins bronze in World Cup slalom

The Canadian Press

1/4/2013 2:45:14 PM

ZAGREB, Croatia -- Rising star Erin Mielzynski secured the second World Cup podium of her career Friday, winning the bronze medal in a slalom race.

Mielzynski, of Guelph, Ont. -- who earlier this year became the first Canadian since 1971 to win a World Cup slalom -- put together two solid runs in challenging conditions to finish third.

"It's amazing," the 22-year-old said. "I wear my emotions on my sleeve and I knew I had to take some steps this year to get on the (podium).

"It's great to have this to build my confidence and remind me what it takes. I just want to learn from every experience and I learned a lot from today."

Friday's race was won by American teenage phenom Mikaela Shiffrin, who finished first in both runs to take the victory by 1.19 seconds with a combined time of two minutes 1.73 seconds. Sweden's Frida Hansdotter was second in 2:02.92, while Mielzynski was third in 2:03.49.

The remainder of the field finished more than two seconds off Shiffrin's winning time.

Slovenian superstar Tina Maze didn't finish her second run. Shiffrin now leads the overall slalom standings with 336 points while Maze is second with 310. Mielzynski is ninth (151 points).

Mielzynski sat fifth after a solid first run on a tough course, which was long and difficult due to ruts appearing in several sections.

"I came into today just wanting to simplify things," Mielzynski said. "I think I've been trying to find a race gear that I don't necessarily need to find."

Mielzynski was first after a solid second run and watched the next four racers go down from the leader's box. Two did not finish to ensure Mielzynski secured her second career World Cup podium.

"In the first run I was fifth and in the second run I tried to keep it simple," she said. "The course was really difficult so I just tried to keep it together from top to bottom.

"It was great seeing the green (leader's) light at the bottom. I had a bit of a wait after that but it was amazing."

Marie-Michele Gagnon, of Lac-Etchemin, Que., and Brittany Phelan, of Mont-Tremblant, Que., were eighth and 10th, respectively, to give the Canadian women's team three top-10 finishers in a World Cup race for the first time since 2008.

"We had three Canadians in the top 10 and I'm so happy for 'Mitch' (Gagnon) and Britt, too," Mielzynski said. "Now the men's team can come and do the same thing (in Sunday's slalom)."

Mielzynski and Shiffrin were helped by mistakes after both Maze and Sweden's Maria Pietilae-Holmner failed to finish their final run.

"Everything went really well today, it felt great," said Shiffrin, who is enjoying a breakthrough season. "I said it in Are and I say it again now: I have no idea how I feel. Maybe you should ask me again in a couple of years."

Defending overall champion Lindsey Vonn of the U.S., who went back to training Thursday after a month-long break from the circuit, skipped the race. Slalom world champion Marlies Schild of Austria has been ruled out for three months after knee surgery in December.

Maze, who straddled a gate which automatically ended her run, lost her lead in the slalom standings to Shiffrin but remained atop the overall World Cup standings.

Velez Zuzulova won the last two races in Semmering and Munich but finished only 24th on Friday after a mistake in her second run brought her to a standstill.

Shiffrin said she was back to full strength after fighting a persistent cold in December.

"I was a little bit sick, I think I have my energy back now," she said after the first run.

-- With files from The Associated Press.