Schild leads Austrian sweep in World Cup opener

Saturday, November 11th 2006, 7:42 am

By: News On 6

LEVI, Finland (AP) _ Marlies Schild led an Austrian podium sweep in the women's World Cup opener Saturday, winning a slalom by .80 seconds.

Schild, who led by .60 after the first run, had a two-run total of 1 minute, 45.66 seconds down Levi's Black course.

Nicole Hosp, who was third in the opening run, finished runnerup. Third place went to Kathrin Zettel, who was 1.17 behind. Zettel finished seventh in the first run.

Ana Jelusic, a Croatian who has never finished on the podium in her career, placed fourth.

There was poor visibility during both runs, but few skiers missed gates or skied out.

Olympic slalom champion Anja Paerson of Sweden, who had left knee surgery after last season's World Cup finals in Sweden, ended up a disappointing 12th.

``I was very tense,'' Paerson said. `` I think that everyone has problems with the nerves on opening day. It was hard to find some speed and rhythm in the first run ... Technically I think that I did not do anything wrong.''

Paerson won the 2004 and '05 overall title and was runnerup last year behind Croatia's Janica Kostelic, who is sitting out this season because of chronic back and knee pain.

Levi, a small ski resort north of the Arctic circle, is the northernmost venue on the World Cup circuit.

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