LIENZ, Austria - Marlies Schild won a women's World Cup slalom Tuesday for her 21st career victory, and her first since breaking a leg and missing all of last season.
The Austrian led after the opening run and finished in an aggregate time of one minute 57.65 seconds. She was 1.83 seconds ahead of Sandrine Aubert of France, who was second.
Kathrin Zettel of Austria was third, 2.19 behind Schild.
"This is definitely the most beautiful win of my career," Schild said. "I had of lots of hesitations over the past year, but now I am extremely happy."
The 2007 and '08 World Cup slalom champion broke her lower left leg during a training run ahead of the season-opening races in Soelden, Austria, in October last year.
She was out for over a year before returning to the World Cup circuit in Levi, Finland, in November, where she finished sixth.
"Some of my doubts from these past 14 months were still in me in the first run," said Schild. "This was the first time I felt really well again during the race."
Top Canadian was Brigitte Acton of Mont Tremblant, Que., in 17th.
"I'm satisfied, but maybe a little frustrated. I just have to be patient," Acton said. "I am skiing really well in training. I just need to transfer that more and more into my racing."
Schild held a commanding lead after her flawless opening run on the partly icy Schlossberg course, leaving teammate Zettel 1.02 seconds behind.
She didn't hold back in her second run and even extended her margin with another 0.81 seconds.
"It's sensational that she's already back at this level," Austrian women's head coach Herbert Mandl said. "This win will be a great relief to her. She can relax now a bit and probably race even a faster next time."
Overall World Cup champion Lindsey Vonn, who wore a brace on her arm, said she felt "a lot of pain" but never considered skipping the race. She finished 4.42 seconds back in 18th place but kept her lead in the overall standings.
"I wanted to race. That's the way I am. I wanted to fight," said Vonn, who crashed in Monday's giant slalom race. "If there is any way I can ski, I will race."
Vonn had no obvious mistakes but was well behind Schild in both runs.
"Sure it wasn't my best. I did what I could," Vonn said. "I am wearing a brace. It protects but it's not really helping. My arm hurts a lot. Every time I hit a gate it was really painful in my wrist. My ribs, my side, pretty much my whole left side hurts a bit."
Vonn skied the final part of last season with a protective covering on her right thumb after cutting a tendon on a broken champagne bottle in Val d'Isere in February.
"This is like the world championships Part II," Vonn said. "Though my arm now hurts more than my thumb did last year."
Vonn said she will have some days off now and visit a specialist who could get her a new brace to ease the pain.
"We did what we could in the short time we had, but we can sure do a better job and maybe that will help with the pain," Vonn said. "I'll definitely give my hand as much rest as possible ahead of Zagreb," where a women's slalom is scheduled for next Sunday.
World slalom champion Maria Riesch was 3.97 seconds behind Schild in 14th place, enough to retain the lead in the discipline standings.
Sarah Schleper of the United States posted the third-fastest time in the second run to finish fifth overall.
It was her best result since winning a slalom in March 2005. The 30-year-old Schleper returned to the World Cup circuit last season after becoming a mother and taking a two-year break.
Italy's Chiara Costazza, who won the Lienz slalom two years ago, lost her balance and went out at the fourth gate in her opening run.
Shona Rubens of Canmore, Alta., did not qualify for the second run.
Marie-Michele Gagnon of Lac-Etchemin, Que., Anna Goodman of Pointe Claire, Que., and Marie-Pier Prefontaine of Saint-Sauveur, Que., did not finish their opening runs.
With files from The Canadian Press.