LAKE LOUISE, Alberta (AP) – Germany’s Maria Riesch answered some self-doubts in winning the first women’s World Cup downhill of the season Friday, while American Lindsey Kildow overcame a long wait and flat light to finish second.

Riesch admitted to some nerves as she climbed into the starting gate for her first race since ripping up her knee last year in Aspen, Colo. It was her second knee injury in as many years.

“I always thought I could race again, but I wondered if I would be fast again and if I would ski without being scared,” said Riesch, who won in 1 minute, 51.31 seconds on the Olympic course.

Kildow was second in 1:51.74 and Italy’s Nadia Fanchini earned her first World Cup podium by finishing third in 1:52.06. Stacey Cook of the United States was fourth for her first top-5 finish.

Riesch, the 10th skier down the hill, had a long wait before she could celebrate her victory. The race was delayed after Sweden’s Jessica Lindell-Vikarby fell and had to be taken off the hill by helicopter. When skiing resumed, the lighting became worse and times slower.

“It was exciting to stand there for such a long time,” said Riesch, who had three wins in 2004 before missing most of the next two seasons with injuries.

“With every racer coming down it seemed no one could be faster. A reason for that is the light, which was really flat at the end. I’ve had lots of bad luck the last years. Today I had good luck.”

Lake Louise continues to be good for Kildow. She’s won two downhills here and was third in a super-giant slalom in 2005.

“It’s Canada, maybe I’m getting some North American love,” said the 22-year-old from Vail, Colo., who was the 30th skier out of the gate on a day temperatures hit 5 degrees.

“This is my fifth year here. Every year I get more and more confident. With my results being what they were the last couple of years, that also gives me more confidence.”

Riesch earned about $28,700 for the win. Kildow picked up $19,100 and Fanchini $14,300.

“Lindsey was just outstanding,” U.S. women’s coach Patrick Riml said. “Coming from that far back after that light changed so dramatically with the injury … and the long wait. But she was charging. She’s really just about the No. 1 downhiller. She’s skiing so well she can do that on any mountain.”

The top Canadian was Kelly VanderBeek.

, who finished sixth. No Canadian woman has reached the podium since Lake Louise began holding World Cup races in 1989.

Another downhill is scheduled for Saturday, with the super-G on Sunday.

AP-ES-12-01-06 1922EST


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