What is there left to say about Marcel Hirscher? The Austrian captured his 57th World Cup win and on Sunday when he won the slalom in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, completing his sweep of the weekend’s races. Oh, and barring absolute disaster, he’s also poised to win an unprecedented seventh — yes, seventh — World Cup overall title in a row when the season concludes later this month.
Morning fog gave way to afternoon sunshine in the tiny Slovenian town sandwiched between the Italian and Austrian borders with two challenging sets and some inconsistent course conditions causing trouble for many racers in the field. Hirscher, however, never looked to be in doubt as he charged his way to the win, leaving second-place finisher Henrik Kristoffersen of Norway 1.22 seconds behind. Surprise Olympic silver medalist Ramon Zenhaeusern of Switzerland continued his breakout year, finishing in third for his first World Cup slalom podium.
It’s hard to find the right words to describe the weekend Hirscher had. Clinching three crystal globes, back-to-back wins, and the anniversary of his first World Cup podium finish 10 years ago make for quite the two days. Naturally, the Austrian is feeling the effects of a season’s worth of pressure and expectations finally being lifted.
“I’m really, really tired at the moment because the pressure was pumping up in the last two days,” Hirscher said. “It is definitely not easy to handle these tough races. Yesterday’s second run was really hard and today it was always tricky to gain some time but finally I was able to win both races.”
The Austrian leads Kristoffersen by 289 points in the overall standings with only the final two regular season speed races left on the schedule as well as World Cup finals. Mathematically, Kristoffersen is still in the running although Hirscher would have to sit out the rest of the season and Kristoffersen would have to win the final slalom and GS races as well as pick up a win in either downhill or super-G, events he has never raced at the World Cup level.
“I never, never expected that I was going to win this year’s overall World Cup title but it is here, it is real, and it is so great,” he added. “I think in 10 years, when I am really off of skiing and really have a little bit more distance from being an active athlete, then I think I am able to realize how crazy these last seven years were.”
It was also Kristoffersen’s second podium in as many days. Although it was a year of more than a few frustrations for the Norwegian, Kristoffersen was nonetheless happy with the progress he has made in recent years and looks forward to shrinking the gap between he and Hirscher in the coming seasons.
“It was OK,” he said. “I think I’ve skied better before but first run I didn’t really hit the setup right, I had some problems with the grip on the steep and that’s where I lost a lot of time to Marcel. It was strange because the conditions were so uneven and I chose a little bit wrong with the setup and that hurt me. I tried but at the moment, Marcel is just a little bit better.”
Zenhausern sat 10th after the first run and was able to set the second-fastest second run on a quickly deteriorating course and jump up seven places in the standings, much like his silver-medal performance from PyeongChang. Although the tall Swiss won the city event in Stockholm just prior to the Olympics, Sunday was his first World Cup podium in a traditional slalom race.
“I never thought it would happen again like that,” he admitted. “I showed a really good ski and I was not so lucky with the bib draw yesterday with 15 in the first run. It was a turny run and I think my long legs helped me a little bit to put my feet in these ruts. This means a lot to me, my first podium in a World Cup slalom and to be on the podium with two guys like Henrik and Marcel, they are legends, it’s a big, big honor for me.”
Mark Engel led the way for the American contingent in 19th place. David Chodounsky fell victim to the second run and did not finish. Hig Roberts also did not finish his first run and Nolan Kasper and Michael Ankeny did not qualify for the second.
The men’s tour now heads to Kvitfjell, Norway, for downhill and super-G races March 10-11.
- Marcel Hirscher (AUT) – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Henrik Kristoffersen (NOR) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Ramon Zenhaeusern (SUI) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Clement Noel (FRA) – Dynastar/Lange/Look
- Sebaastian Foss-Solevaag (NOR) – Voelkl/Dalbello/Marker
- Marc Rochat (SUI) – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Manfred Moelgg (ITA) – Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
- Sandro Simonet (SUI) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Victor Muffat-Jeandet (FRA) – Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
- Stefano Gross (ITA) – Voelkl/Tecnica/Marker
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Run 1||Run 2||Total Time||Diff.||FIS Points||WC Points|
|26||17||421669||NESTVOLD-HAUGEN Leif Kristian||1987||NOR||54.62||1:00.10||1:54.72||+5.50||36.26||5|
|Did not finish 2nd run|
|Did not qualify for 2nd run|
|Did not finish 1st run|
|Did not start 1st run|