Back in 2009, the Austrian legend Marcel Hirscher won his first giant slalom in Val d’Isere. On Saturday, December 8th, 2018, Hirscher’s giant slalom win brought his total win count up to 60. Despite heavy snow and low visibility, he was able to separate himself from the top of the field, pulling 1.18 seconds ahead of runner-up, Henrik Kristoffersen.
“It’s crazy. So many years are in between those races, and so many victories more… it’s unbelievable. I have to say thank you, thank you to be healthy all the time, to have no injuries. I’ve raced every race that I’ve wanted to race and it is unbelievable,” said Hirscher after the race. “So many other athletes have to deal with injuries and stupid things. That is one part, and the other part is to have an amazing team around me. Unbelievable, to stand here, right now, and think about the memories back in 2009.”
Hirscher has won in Val d’Isere four other times in his career, but he has not won on the track, “La Face”, since 2015. Of the last 15 giant slalom races Hirscher has competed in, he has won 12. Last season, he won seven of eight giant slalom races held. His six-win streak in giant slalom was broken just last week by German Stefan Luitz in Beaver Creek, who finished 30th on Saturday.
Controversy is currently circulating around Luitz victory in Beaver Creek, after a photo was submitted of him taking supplemental oxygen between runs, which is deemed illegal by the FIS. A protest of his win was made after the protest period closed, and due to media speculation, the FIS took the case to WADA (The World Anti-Doping Agency) to confirm whether or not Luitz win should be rescinded, and other actions should be taken against him and his German teammates. During a post-race press conference, Hirscher was asked how he felt regarding the situation because if Luitz win is revoked, Hirscher’s giant slalom win streak will continue.
“For me, personally, I think it’s really hard for Stefan. As a professional athlete, you have to trust your coaches, doctor, or someone else. You have to trust someone. And I think he trusted the team. In my opinion, I think it’s really bad the team made this decision, and it is not Stefan’s mistake” explained Hirscher. “It’s really shitty when you have to trust someone and you don’t think about it and it goes wrong like this. I think Stefan is trying his best to deal with this and in my opinion, the mistake was made by someone else.”
Kristoffersen, who stood second on the podium on Saturday, almost lost his grip during the first run with a huge mistake at the top of the course that forced him to make a quick save. Despite this mistake, the Norwegian stayed aggressive throughout conditions that were easier for him to fight through than he had expected. In the end, he was able to pull it together and finish in the top of the field.
“Today I must say I’m really happy with the second place because with the two big mistakes in the first run, especially the one on top [of the course], I could have easily gone out and had no points and no second run,” Kristoffersen said. “Overall happy with today, not so happy with the mistakes, but you live and learn.”
Matts Olsson of Sweden rounded out the podium in third. His finish on Saturday marks his best performance in Val d’Isere, as well as his first podium of the 2018/19 season. Olsson is new to the podium in the giant slalom discipline, only having made it into the top three twice in prior to Saturday’s race.
“It was better than expected here on La Face. I think the snow suited me pretty well” said Olsson. “Otherwise, it was really tough and I’m a little bit surprised that it suited me that good. With this good start and also the podium today, I think it should work pretty well until Christmas at least I hope so. I’ll keep on training and keep on working…this for sure built some self-confidence.”
Tommy Ford’s sixth-place finish is a career-best for the American. Previously, his best finish had been eighth in the giant slalom in Are, Sweden, last year.
“Honestly, I skied well and we’re just working on the progression,” Ford said. “My mentality was to stay calm and trust what I know I’ve been working on and just let the waves come and stay grounded.”
Ted Ligety, also known as Mr. GS, was the only other American to qualify for a second run. Ryan Cochran-Siegle did not finish his first run, while Brian McLaughlin, Luke Winters, River Radamus, and Hig Roberts all did not make the time to qualify for run number two.
In the past, Ligety has won in Val d’Isere, but it’s been eight years since his last victory on La Face. Last week in Beaver Creek, he finished 8th. On Saturday, Ligety finished 25th overall, one of his weaker performances in the discipline. When he completes his runs, Ligety has not finished outside of the top 20 since 2012.
“Wasn’t really the race I was looking for, that’s for sure. It’s a hard hill to get a good feeling on and really go hard if you haven’t had a lot of warm-up to get into it” said Ligety. “For me, it was hard to get a feeling going at all, and I skied like that. I just need to figure out ways to step it up a little bit more. The skiing is close, it’s just the small little tweaks and getting used to going hard.”
On Sunday, if the snow slows down, the men will compete in the slalom on La Face in Val d’Isere. First run will start at 10:00am Central European Time.
- Marcel Hirscher (AUT): 1:42.99 – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Henrik Kristoffersen (NOR): +1.18 – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Matts Olsson (SWE): +1.31 – Head/Head/Head
- Alexis Pinturault (FRA): +1.46 – Head/Head/Head
- Loic Meillard (SUI): +1.54 – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Tommy Ford (USA): +1.69 – Head/Head/Head
- Marco Odermatt (SUI): +1.72 – Stoeckli / Stoeckli
- Riccardo Tonetti (ITA): +1.79 – Blizzard/Tecnica/Marker
- Zan Kranjec (SLO): +2.10 – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Mathieu Faivre (FRA): +2.16 – Head/Head/Head
For official FIS results, click here.