ROSA KHUTOR, Russia, Feb 21 (Reuters) - One sister's joy was another's despair on Friday as Marlies Schild, who stormed through the second leg of the Olympic slalom quicker than anyone, had to watch her younger sibling ski off course to help her close in on a silver medal.
Putting everything on the line after finishing her first run in the sixth-fastest time, the older Schild was leading the field when her younger sister straddled a gate and skied off course.
Even though that put only one woman between her and a medal, Marlies was upset about her sister's mistake.
Bernadette Schild, eight years younger than Marlies, had looked confident after the first run which she finished in fourth place, saying the snow conditions suited her better than her sister.
"I was very sorry for (Bernadette) but she has some other big events to go and I think she will make her medal in the near future," Marlies, 32, said of her 24-year-old sister.
Bernadette, however, found it harder to be gracious. With tears running down her face, she had few words to describe her sister's achievement.
"It's a big shame when you are this close to a medal," she told reporters before pausing for breath.
"Of course, I'm really happy for my sister. I knew she had nothing to lose after her first run."
Another Austrian was in tears in the floodlit Caucasus Mountains, but for different reasons to the younger Schild. Having failed to win a medal in three attempts, Kathrin Zettel skied to bronze in her last Olympic race.
"I cried, I talked. Finally I am allowed to take a medal home from Olympic Games," Zettel said, struggling to keep her composure.
"I had almost accepted that I would be fourth again. I would have had to survive. I would have had no choice. But it's all the nicer that finally I am allowed on the podium," said Zettel.
Zettel was in third place when Germany's Maria Hoefl-Riesch started her last Olympic run in second position after the first run. But Hoefl-Riesch lost speed at a gate early on and finished fourth, behind Marlies Schild and Zettel with American Mikaela Schiffrin still to come.
"I went down on my knees after Maria made her mistake. It was tight, I was behind Marlies," a teary-eyed Zettel said.
"I just thought 'please ski a little more slowly'. I can't describe the load that fell off my shoulders when she crossed the line behind me. I immediately started to cry."
Austria's woman have now won six Olympic medals at the Sochi Games, twice the number they claimed in 2010. (Editing by Ed Osmond)