LEVI, Finland – Marlies Schild led an Austrian 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 second. Third place went to Kathrin Zettel, 1.17 behind. Zettel finished seventh in the first run.

Croatian Ana Jelusic, 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 runner-up 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.

AP-ES-11-11-06 0805EST



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