Facing enough pressure to turn coal into diamonds, Austria’s Marcel Hirscher produced a gem of a set of slalom runs in Levi, Finland today (Nov. 17) to get his first win above the Arctic Circle. In the process, he displayed his full intent to defend both the slalom crown and the World Cup overall title this season. He also won a reindeer in the process which he promptly named “Ferdinand” after his father and coach.
Despite winning nine World Cup slalom races over the past two seasons, Hirscher had never won in Levi. He has remained dominant in slalom, however. The win was his 15th straight slalom podium.
“It’s not easy to be in the role of a favorite. It is definitely not an easy job… I’m really happy today,” he said.
Hirscher said the flat at Levi is a bit misleading. “The flat piece is certainly long, but the steep part is often underestimated. Levi is not only flat, there are just contrarian route parts.”
German star Felix Neureuther, second after the first run, never found the groove in his second run as he moved a little too aggressively, got hung up, and managed a full somersault on course. However, he never missed a gate and completed the course in 27th, three seconds slower than anyone else.
The rest of the podium was a contrast, at least in age, as 35-year-old Austrian veteran Mario Matt placed second and Norway’s 19-year-old relative newcomer Henrik Kristoffersen was third overpowering the lower, steeper third of the course. It was a career-best result and the first World Cup podium for Kristoffersen whose previous top result was 11th in Levi last year. Additionally, it was the first World Cup slalom podium result for Norway since 2004. Croatia’s Ivica Kostelic, in fourth, was 1.22 seconds off Hirscher’s pace.
Kristoffersen was plenty happy to have made a World Cup podium, but said, “It as a big step in the right direction, but I have a long way to go.”
Former Norwegian great Hans Petter Buraas, Olympic gold medalist in slalom, told the Norwegian press, “It was damn cool to see that Henry came to the podium. Not only Henry, but we have all three pieces in the top 15 with Leif Kristian Haugen and Sebastian-Foss Solevaag. Now it’s just for Henry to stay focused ahead and work towards the goals and dreams he has. He will get more attention, new friends and a lot of things for such a result. I guess he’s pretty sensible. He is a very down to earth guy who has his feet on the ground.”
University of Vermont skier Jonathan Nordbotten also represented Norway and placed ahead of the tumbling gymnast Neureuther. Nordbotten said the course conditions were good, but he observed, “You had to give full gas from top to bottom.”
Nobody gave full gas quite like Hirscher. The lone American scoring points was Ted Ligety, who powered from 24th to ultimately finish 11th with the sixth fastest second run.
“I wouldn’t say that either run was all that impressive, but second run I skied a little bit more like I should be skiing from run to run. But it’s still far from what I need to be doing in slalom,” noted Ligety. “Levi’s a drag race. It’s the easiest course on the World Cup by far so the margins are super tight and the little mistakes cost you a ton of time. It makes it difficult to be one of the fastest guys because you really pay when you are a little bit off.”
Although the result was less stellar than his Soelden premier, Ligety still picked up points in his quest for the overall title. However, he knows he needs to score better in slalom to keep that goal within reach.
“I need to be scoring in the top five to top three. I need to up it if this is going to be a meaningful route to getting me enough points (to win the overall World Cup title). I guess it’s not a horrible day to start out the slalom season,” he reasoned.
In his first World Cup race since a 2011 knee injury that required two surgeries and kept him off skis for 650 days, France’s Julien Lizeroux showed he still has the touch after battling from start number 63 to finish 17th. The only North American other than Ligety to qualify for second run was Canada’s Mike Janyk, who finished 20th.
“It was okay but I didn’t have that sensation on the snow where I could really let it rip. I pushed to the end, and I will build from here,” said Janyk.
A three-way tie for 30th in the first run meant that 32 athletes started in the second run. American Colby Granstrom was the first skier to miss the cut, just five hundredths of a second out from qualifying. In his first race back on the World Cup in over a year, Nolan Kasper struggled and would not have qualified for the second run anyway, but he was disqualified for using skis that were deemed illegal during the equipment check after first run.
View our gallery from today’s race here.
World Cup, Men’s Slalom, Levi, Finland, Nov. 17, 2013
Equipment – Skier, skis/boots/bindings
1 Hirscher, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
2 Matt, Blizzard/Tecnica/Marker
3 Kristoffersen, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
4 Kostelic, Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
5 Hargin, Nordica/Nordica
6 Thaler, Nordica/Nordica/Marker
7 Grange, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
8 Raich, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
9 Solevaag, Volkl//Marker
10 Missillier, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
World Cup, Men’s Slalom, Levi, Finland, Nov. 17, 2013.… It is the second race of 34 races on the men’s 2013-14 World Cup Tour… the first of nine scheduled slaloms.… It is the 16th World Cup race hosted at Levi, all of them slaloms… the second in two days.… Three men, Adam Zampa, Naoki Yuasa and Francois Place, tie for 30th, lengthening the second run by two starters.
It is the 19th career World Cup win for Marcel Hirscher… his 11th in slalom, placing him third on the Austrian career slalom win list behind Benjamin Raich’s 14 and Mario Matt’s 13. It is his first win at Levi, though he did place second at the site last season.
It is the 40th World Cup podium of Mario Matt’s career… his 38th in slalom.… His previous best at Levi had been third in 2008.
It is a career-best World Cup placing for Henrik Kristoffersen, his previous best having been 11th, scored at Levi a season ago (Nov. 11, 2o12).
It is a career-best result at Levi for Ted Ligety, topping a 13th from last season.… It is also a career-best Levi result for Michael Janyk, his previous best a 14th in 2009.
Hirscher takes control of the overall standings 160-124 over Ligety.… Matt and Alexis Pinturault are tied for third with 80pts each.… Austria leads the men’s Nations Cup 369-337 over France with Norway third at 173pts.… The U.S. is fourth at 147.… Canada is 13th with 11 points.
Results — Levi Men’s World Cup Slalom
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Run 1||Run 2||Total Time||FIS Points|
|15||34||421669||HAUGEN Leif Kristian||1987||NOR||53.80||53.88||1:47.68||13.29|
|Disqualified 1st run|
|Did not qualify for 2nd run|
|78||30149||SIMARI BIRKNER Cristian Javier||1980||ARG|
|44||192504||MERMILLOD BLONDIN Thomas||1984||FRA|
|Did not finish 2nd run|
|Did not finish 1st run|