Can Marcel Hirscher be stopped? After Sunday’s slalom in Wengen, Switzerland, it certainly doesn’t look like it as the Austrian superstar took his fifth slalom in a row and eighth victory of the season in commanding fashion.
With all of Hirscher’s success, it’s hard to think that before Sunday, the Austrian had never won a race in Wengen. Hirscher’s win never looked in doubt as he seemed to effortlessly flow through the sections that gave much of the field trouble in both runs as he crossed the finish for a victory of nearly a full second.
“The media in Austria, they are always talking about why not in Wengen,” Hirscher said after the race. “I had no idea why not, but finally I made it and I’m super happy about this. It’s hard to get a feeling if I’m fast or if I lost a lot of time so I tried to push it as hard as possible and finally I think the last part was not too bad so, yeah, it was a good day.”
Boilerplate ice and a rough surface made for difficult conditions in the morning as 25 of the 64 first-run starters fell victim to the notoriously challenging Wengen slalom slope. Warming temperatures and creeping sunshine also made for variable snow in the second run as the sunlit sections of the course softened and became more aggressive.
Despite his best efforts, Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen just hasn’t been able to find himself on the right side of the clock this season. Even a swashbuckling second run was not enough to best Hirscher’s otherworldly skiing. The Attacking Viking had to once again settle for a different step on the podium, this time in second place, 0.93 seconds back.
“It’s never being able to take what you can get,” Kristoffersen explained in the finish. “It’s a matter of at the moment Marcel is just better but I’ll fight and work as hard as possible to stand on the top step of the podium. I’m a little bit sick of everybody saying I haven’t won this year because I have 10 podiums in 12 races and that’s a much bigger accomplishment than winning one or two races. At the moment, he’s just better; that’s how it is.”
Sweden’s Andre Myhrer sat second, sandwiched between the two slalom stars, after the first run but was unable to match their pace in the afternoon and settled for third place, 1.72 seconds off of Hirscher.
“I’m really happy with the skiing and the performance right now,” said the tall Swede. “It’s a little behind Mr. Marcel Hirscher, but I still think I skied two really good runs. A little mistake at the bottom of the second run and maybe I think that I could have done a little bit better but like I said, really happy with the situation right now.”
The bright spot for the American team came from Nolan Kasper. After nearly a three-year absence from the World Cup, the 28-year-old New Englander made an impressive return, finishing in 20th place.
“It was pretty good,” Kasper said. “Definitely a few mistakes in there but I’m pretty happy with my result and psyched to be back having a second run again. This is as good as I could have hoped for. I knew I was skiing well, but you’re at the World Cup and these are the best guys so to be able to throw it in, I’m super stoked.”
With the way things have been playing out for the American slalom team this season, Kasper’s result made him the third American man to score World Cup points this winter along with David Chodounsky and Mark Engel. With one more qualification race to go and each nation allowed to start four competitors per event at the Games, Kasper made a strong case for his inclusion on what would be his third Olympic team.
“It’s always in the back of your mind but it’s not for me to decide,” he admitted. “I’m just going to go out and try and ski and have fun. My goals this year don’t change. I’m trying to go and prove to myself that I can be competitive and try and ski well. Obviously, I’ve missed a lot of time so I just want to go out and have some fun and enjoy this year.”
Engel also qualified for a second run but hiked in the afternoon, ultimately ending up in 26th place, although too far off the leaders to score World Cup points. Chodounsky, AJ Ginnis, and Hig Roberts did not finish their first runs.
The men’s tour now heads to Kitsbuehel, Austria, for the world-famous Hahnenkamm races with super-G, downhill, and slalom scheduled for Jan. 19-21.
- Marcel Hirscher (AUT) – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Henrik Kristoffersen (NOR) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Andre Myhrer (SWE) – Head/Head/Head
- Ramon Zenhaeusern (SUI) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Leif Kristian Nestvold-Haugen (NOR) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Michael Matt (AUT) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Stefano Gross (ITA) – Voelkl/Tecnica/Marker
- Alexis Pinturault (FRA) – Head/Head/Head
- Linus Strasser (GER) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Marc Digruber (AUT) – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Run 1||Run 2||Total Time||Diff.||FIS Points||WC Points|
|5||22||421669||NESTVOLD-HAUGEN Leif Kristian||1987||NOR||51.79||55.59||1:47.38||+1.93||13.18||45|
|Did not finish 2nd run|
|Disqualified 2nd run|
|Did not qualify for 2nd run|
|Did not finish 1st run|
|64||54106||BREITFUSS KAMMERLANDER Simon||1992||BOL||0|
|Did not start 1st run|