Marlies Schild won the slalom title yesterday and is ready to concentrate on something bigger -- the overall World Cup trophy.
The Austrian captured a slalom in Sierra Nevada, Spain, to take the season title for the event with two races to spare, moving into first place in the overall standings. She has won six of the seven slaloms this season.
"Now she can ski more relaxed in the remaining slaloms," Austria women's head coach Herbert Mandl said. "It's also important for the overall. If she can win the last two slaloms and also do good in GS, I think she's the favorite."
Tanja Poutiainen of Finland was second, 0.32 of a second behind, and Veronika Zuzulova of Slovakia was third, 0.93 back. American Julia Mancuso finished 15th.
Schild is in a four-way race for the overall title with teammates Renate Goetschl and Nicole Hosp, and Mancuso. Schild leads the overall standings with 1,052 points, followed by Goetschl with 1,019, Hosp with 989 and Mancuso with 959.
Hosp finished fourth yesterday with the fastest second leg. Goetschl does not race slalom anymore.
In the slalom standings, Schild has 660 points. Ana Jelusic of Croatia, who finished fifth, is next, 332 points behind. Wins are worth 100 points each, so Schild has an insurmountable lead.
"My slalom season has really been perfect," Schild said after skiing the Neveros course in a two-run combined time of 1 minute 43.61 seconds.
Poutiainen, the 2005 slalom champion, said Schild's key is her consistency.
"The balance is there and then it doesn't matter how the slope is or how the conditions are," Poutiainen said. "She's always really fast."
Resi Stiegler of the United States, who was second after the opening leg, straddled a gate in her second run, losing control after posting a fast split time.
Schild lost some of her lead midway through her second run, but held on in the steep lower section and clinched victory with the 10th fastest second leg.
Schild and Stiegler, who has never finished among the top three, are polar opposites.
"She never makes any mistakes. She's very consistent," Stiegler said.
Last season, Schild ended up second in the slalom standings behind Janica Kostelic, who is taking this year off. If Schild wins the final two slaloms -- in Zwiesel, Germany, on March 11 and at the season finals in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, on March 17 -- she can match Kostelic's record of eight slalom victories in 2000-01. Kostelic, however, won all eight in succession.
Olympic champion Anja Paerson of Sweden missed a gate early in her first run and did not finish. Michaela Kirchgasser of Austria, who won Saturday's giant slalom, also skied out in the opening leg.
· NORDIC WORLD SKI CHAMPIONSHIPS:In Sapporo, Japan, Hannu Manninen won his second gold medal of the championships, anchoring Finland to the gold medal in the Nordic combined team 20-kilometer event.
Manninen, who won his first individual gold medal on Friday in the 7.5-kilometer sprint, surged ahead of Germany's Bjorn Kircheisen on the final leg of the cross-country race to ensure another gold for Finland.
Finland finished with a time of 49:14.9 -- 28.4 seconds ahead of Germany. Norway took the bronze a further 1:12.0 back.
Germany's No. 3 skier Tino Edelmann gave his team a brief lead heading into the final leg but Manninen was too strong for Kircheisen, who finished third in the sprint event.
Finland started the cross-country race with a lead of 0.39 of a second after Manninen and his teammates combined to lead the ski jumping portion.
In the women's 15-kilometer cross-country pursuit event, Russia's Olga Savialova won the gold with a time of 41:27.5.
Katerina Neumannova of the Czech Republic was 0.5 of a second back while Norway's Kristin Stoermer Steira was third for the bronze.
· AERIALS:Steve Omischl won the World Cup title by finishing first with a score of 247.49 points in the Canada Post Freestyle Grand Prix in Penticton, B.C.
The Canadian beat out American Jeret Peterson for the overall title with 406 points to Peterson's 368. Peterson finished third with 231.53 points and Canadian Kyle Nissen was second with 238.07.
Australian Jacqui Cooper won the World Cup overall women's title and finished first in the women's final with a score of 198.73.
Shuang Cheng of China was second with 195.63 points, while Nina Li of China was third with 192.99.