Zettel wins at last while Vonn's jinx continues

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MARIBOR, Slovenia (Reuters) - Austria's Kathrin Zettel claimed her first World Cup victory of the season in Maribor on Saturday while Lindsey Vonn's giant slalom woes continued.

With less than a month to go before the Winter Olympics begin in Vancouver on February 12, Zettel's seventh career win was especially satisfying as she finally beat two of the best skiers in the world.

Germany's Maria Riesch finished second, 0.23 seconds behind. Maribor queen Anja Paerson, winner of seven previous races in the Slovenian city, was third after she crossed the line 0.48 seconds off the pace.

Despite failing to climb on top of the podium, the result provided a much needed boost for the Swede as she had hurt her knee in a crash in Flachau on Tuesday.

Like her arch-rival Riesch, World Cup leader Vonn looked ideally placed to claim a long overdue giant slalom medal when she was second fastest in the first run.

But the American crashed with the finish line in sight in the afternoon and failed to score points. Vonn's misfortune meant she has now finished only one of her last six giant slaloms.

"I'm a little bit fed up of crashing. But today I made a big mistake near the top. I fought hard to make up for lost time and I didn't have any strength left in the finale," said Vonn.

The result lifted Riesch to 862 points in the World Cup overall standings, only 32 behind Vonn.

"I knew victory would come at last but this is a great relief," said Zettel, who has skied with a painful knee since the start of the season.

Paerson had signaled her return to form with two second place finishes in downhills behind Vonn this winter but the Swede had struggled in giant slaloms.

"I focused on the giant slalom in training because it's actually my best specialty. I know it didn't show in recent years and I'm glad the work paid off," she said.

(Reporting by Patrick Lang; editing by Pritha Sarkar)