Canada's Erin Mielzynski wins bronze medal in women's slalom race

ZAGREB, Croatia - Erin Mielzynski proved her World Cup victory was no fluke.

The Canadian skier captured her second career World Cup medal Friday, winning bronze in the women's slalom race.

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The native of Guelph, Ont., had a breakout result last March when she won a World Cup slalom race in Ofterschwang, Germany, becoming the first Canadian woman to do so since 1971 .

She thinks her second medal should put to rest any suggestions that she is a one-race wonder.

"I feel a bit of relief," she said via conference call Friday. "After Ofterschwang I know there were some comments about whether it was a fluke.

"I believed in myself, but with every good thing there's always a little bit of talk. It's just nice to have that put at bay and to move on with the year."

Friday's race was won by American teenage phenom Mikaela Shiffrin, who finished first in both runs to take the victory by 1.19 seconds with a combined time of two minutes 1.73 seconds. Sweden's Frida Hansdotter was second in 2:02.92, while Mielzynski was third in 2:03.49.

The remainder of the field finished more than two seconds off Shiffrin's winning time.

Slovenian superstar Tina Maze didn't finish her second run. Shiffrin now leads the overall slalom standings with 336 points while Maze is second with 310. Mielzynski is ninth (151 points).

Mielzynski sat fifth after a solid first run on a tough course, which was long and difficult due to ruts appearing in several sections. She was first after her solid second run with four skiers to go, and mistakes by Maze and Sweden's Maria Pietilae-Holmner ensured she would get a medal.

Mielzynski said she simplified her approach entering Friday's race and concentrated on making mistake-free runs, which served her well when the two other medal contenders took themselves out of contention.

"I didn't want to put it into fifth gear," she said. "I just wanted a consistent fourth gear and to make it down with no mistakes and just ski sold."

Marie-Michele Gagnon, of Lac-Etchemin, Que., and Brittany Phelan, of Mont-Tremblant, Que., were eighth and 10th, respectively, to give the Canadian women's team three top-10 finishers in a World Cup race for the first time since 2008.

"I think a podium and then two more to back it up in the top 10 is a great result for any team," said Jim Pollock, head of the Canadian women's technical team. "I think we all really earned this result."

The team stayed in Europe over Christmas and trained to better prepare for the race.

"I think all of us were pretty tired on Christmas day for mental and physical reasons," Mielzynski said. "But if we're already in Europe we might as well be skiing, we might as well be training and we all love what we do, so merry Christmas to us."

Gagnon earned a top-10 finish despite recently spraining her ankle while on a jog in Zagreb.

"I sprained it really bad and it was really, really swollen," Gagnon said. "But our physiotherapist was amazing. She did so much work on it. She taped it up and I just shoved it into the boot."

Shiffrin, meanwhile, continued her impressive breakout season.

"Everything went really well today, it felt great," Shiffrin said. "I said it in Are and I say it again now: I have no idea how I feel. Maybe you should ask me again in a couple of years."

Defending overall champion Lindsey Vonn of the U.S., who went back to training Thursday after a month-long break from the circuit, skipped the race. Slalom world champion Marlies Schild of Austria has been ruled out for three months after knee surgery in December.

Maze, who straddled a gate which automatically ended her run, lost her lead in the slalom standings to Shiffrin but remained atop the overall World Cup standings.

Velez Zuzulova won the last two races in Semmering and Munich but finished only 24th on Friday after a mistake in her second run brought her to a standstill.

Shiffrin said she was back to full strength after fighting a persistent cold in December.

"I was a little bit sick, I think I have my energy back now," she said after the first run.

— With files from The Associated Press.

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