By Manuele Lang
LIENZ, Austria, Dec 28 (Reuters) - Austrian hopeful Anna Fenninger fought a tough battle to open her World Cup account and win a women's giant slalom on Wednesday.
The 22-year-old all-rounder, one of the most gifted skiers the world in the junior ranks, had already been rewarded by the super-combined gold medal she won at the last world championships in Germany in February.
However, she had only five podiums to claim in World Cup races to date but she set the record straight in a combined time of two minutes and 16.08 seconds.
"To win my fist race in Austria is a great way to finish the year," said Fenninger, who took advantage of a huge mistake by first leg pacesetter Viktoria Rebensburg in the afternoon.
"It's an exciting surprise. I was going for the podium but I really thought I had lost too much time in the first run to go for victory," added the Austrian, who was only sixth after the morning leg.
Fenninger felt she might have been helped by deteriorating visibility during the race.
"The conditions were maybe too hard for the favorites. But in the end they simply made more mistakes than I did," she said.
Olympic champion Rebensburg hit a gate and lost considerable time when heading for a comfortable victory. She still managed fourth place.
"The second leg was very hard to ski. It was very dark. I made a mistake but I fought hard and I managed to keep the red bib," said the German, winner in Aspen a month ago.
It was a day for the up-and-coming generation as Italy's Federica Brignone, 21, was second, 0.20 seconds adrift. France's Tessa Worley, 22, was third, a further 0.19 behind.
Overall World Cup leader Lindsey Vonn limited the damage in her least favorite discipline by coming home fifth, 0.80 off the pace.
The American now leads the World Cup standings on 599 points, with closest rival Fenninger on 368.