OFTERSCHWANG, Germany — Around this time year, Resi Stiegler was happy just to make it through a full season without getting hurt.
After a couple of nasty crashes and three mostly lost seasons of injuries and rehabilitation, Stiegler reached a more ambitious milestone on Sunday. She finished a career-best second in a World Cup slalom on Sunday.
“I’m ecstatic, I almost have no words for it,” Stiegler said. “I don’t know why it all came together today, but maybe it could have come together all year and was just waiting for this one day.”
The only person between the American and a gold medal was Erin Mielzynski, who gave Canada its first World Cup slalom victory in more than 40 years. Marlies Schild of Austria placed third to win her fourth slalom World Cup title.
Stiegler, a 2006 Olympian, had her promising career derailed the following December, when she wiped out during a giant slalom run in Austria. She caught an edge, went through the fencing, did a cartwheel and collided with a stump, breaking her right leg, left arm and tearing all the ligaments in her right knee.
She overcame two off-hill injuries and entered the 2009-10 season healed and healthy. A spot on the U.S. squad heading to Vancouver seemed almost a certainty.
But in a November training run, she hooked a gate and her ski failed to pop off, slamming her into the snow so forcefully she fractured the inner part of her left femur and the top of her tibia.
She endured nightmares about crashing and consulted with a sports psychologist. She even considered quitting this season before deciding to keep competing.
“I was just determined. If it’s not going to happen, it’s not going to happen, but I am going to keep pushing,” she said.
Her goal, Stiegler said, was to be better than before her injuries and “go on the podium consistently.”
The first podium finish of Stiegler’s career helped prevent Schild from tying Vreni Schneider’s record of 34 career slalom wins. Schild had won six of seven previous slalom races this season.
First-run leader Tina Maze of Slovenia missed a gate on the slushy course and failed to finish. Maze’s mistake delivered the overall slalom title to Schild.
Maze also failed to make up any ground on overall leader Lindsey Vonn of the United States, who straddled a gate and was eliminated. Vonn leads by 494 points, with six races remaining. A win is worth 100 points.
Mielzynski’s previous best results were a pair of 13th-place finishes last year — in a slalom in December in Courchevel, France and another slalom in February in Zwiesel, Germany.
Sitting fifth after the first heat with a deficit of 0.60 seconds, Mielzynski went smoothly down the course to jump ahead of Stiegler.
“I’ve worked really hard this year and past years. I’ve battled with my confidence and so many things,” said Mielzynski, who became the first Canadian woman to win a World Cup slalom since Betsy Clifford in 1971.
“I didn’t do anything different, my goal for today was to try to race like I train every single day and I think that is what I figured out today,” she said.
Lena Duerr of Germany, second after the first run, dropped to sixth. Mikaela Shiffrin, the 16-year-old American who was in a tie for third after the first run, made an early mistake in the second, then missed a gate at the bottom. She got back on the course but finished last.
Frida Hansdotter of Sweden, who shared third with Shiffrin after the first heat, fell back to seventh.