The rain was falling all day in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, for the last World Cup slalom before the finals as Austria’s Marcel Hirscher took his second victory in as many days by 0.81 seconds over Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen in second. Italy’s Stefano Gross took third, 1.11 seconds back.
First run action saw Hirscher leading the race with a sizable 0.75- second margin and looked to be in the driver’s seat in not only the race, but also the discipline standings as he only sat just over 100 points behind Kristoffersen, who found himself in seventh after the first run.
As course crews worked diligently to keep the course in skiable shape during the second run, Kristoffersen laid down a performance fans have grown used to seeing from the young Norwegian phenom, crossing the line well in the lead and poised to make a big jump in the standings. As racer after racer either fell victim to the course or Kristofferson’s blistering pace, Hirscher pushed out of the start and skied relaxed and composed down the rugged course, crossing the line for the win. Kristoffersen’s performance was enough to lock up his first career crystal globe, as he now sits 111 points clear of Hirscher in the slalom standings with only one race to go.
Hirscher was able to race largely pressure-free on Sunday, knowing that he secured the giant slalom and overall titles the day before and realizing that the slalom title was likely out of reach barring a disaster for Kristoffersen. That carefree skiing translated into a win that looked effortless on a day where many racers struggled mightily with the conditions.
“It is a lot of fun,” Hirscher explained in the finish. “Most of the time, I’m always thinking during the skiing, ‘please not to straddle, please not to lose so much time,’ because I need as many points as possible. And today, it was just for fun. It was really great, just an amazing race. Congrats to Henrik for an amazing slalom season, the real and true champion of this season in slalom, and I’ll be back next season!”
For Kristoffersen, Sunday’s runner-up finish caps off what has been a stellar year for the 21-year-old. Six World Cup slalom wins, two second-place finishes, and his first crystal globe. Oh, yeah, and there’s still one more slalom to go in St. Moritz.
“Yeah, I can relax a little bit more,” Kristoffersen said. “I really had to work with myself before second run there. This is maybe the first time in a really long time I had to work really hard with myself and I felt the pressure a little bit. I didn’t feel the pressure from the outside, but from myself. You kind of have to try and forget about the globe a little bit, forget about the slalom standings, because the most important thing is the skiing. I had to work a lot with my head going up the lift for the second run. If you would have asked me if this was going to happen last year, I would have definitely said no.”
Gross claimed his third podium of the season, battling through tough conditions with tenacity and aggression that has become his trademark in recent years.
For the Americans, David Chodounsky led the way with a solid seventh place, bouncing back after a disappointing DNF in the last World Cup slalom in Yuzawa Naeba, Japan, last month. The American now heads into World Cup finals sitting in 12th place in the slalom standings and undoubtedly looks to improve on that ranking before the season comes to a close.
“It’s great, I’m psyched,” Chodounsky said. “Coming down in the lead is always really good and I’m really happy with that. I felt my top was really good with one mistake just before the finish. I feel like that cost me a little time, but that’s OK, I still had a good run.”
Tying Chodounsky in seventh was Swede Mattias Hargin who sat in 30th after the first run. Having nothing to lose, the Swede set the fastest second run time and was able to jump all the way into a top-10 finish with some impressive skiing in tough conditions.
The men’s tour now travels to Scandinavia for downhill and super G races in Kvitfjell, Norway, March 10-13.
By Hank McKee
1. Hirscher, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
2. Kristoffersen, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
3. Gross, Voelkl/Tecnica/Marker
4. Dopfer, Nordica/Nordica/Marker
5. Schwarz, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
6. Pinturault, Head/Head/Head
7. Chodounsky, Nordica/Nordica/Marker
7. Hargin, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
9. Myhrer, Head/Head/Head
10. Moelgg, Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
- Men’s World Cup slalom, Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, March 6, 2016. … It is the 38th race of the men’s 45 race schedule. … The 10th of 11 slaloms (ninth of 10 remaining on the schedule after the cancellation of Levi in November). … It is the 86th World Cup race hosted by Kranjska Gora and the 44th slalom. … The race is part of the 55th Pokal Vitranc Cup series. … Henrik Kristoffersen is the defending champion. … Marcel Hirscher has never previously won a slalom at Kranjska Gora.
- It is the 39th career World Cup win for Marcel Hirscher, his eighth of the season. … It is his 18th career slalom win and second slalom win of the season. The winning margin is 0.81 of a second. … Top two are within the same second. … Top 11 within two seconds. … It is his first slalom victory at Kranjska Gora but his second win in two days at the site.
- It is the 23rd career World Cup podium for Henrik Kristoffersen. … His 12th of the season.
- It is the ninth career World Cup podium for Stefano Gross. … His third of the season having also been third in slalom at Wengen and in the city event at Stockholm.
- David Chodounsky matches his third best career World Cup placing. … It is his third top 10 of the season.
- Marcel Hirscher extends his lead of the World Cup overall standings to 1625-1272 over Kristoffersen. … Alexis Pinturault (sixth in race) is third overall with 1080.
- Kristoffersen leads the slalom standings 811-700 over Hirscher. … With a single slalom remaining he cannot be beaten for the title. … Felix Neureuther (DNF 2nd) is third in the slalom standings with 363pts.
- Austria leads the men’s Nations Cup 5123-4816 over France. … Norway is third at 4191pts. … The U.S. is seventh with 1781pts and Canada tenth at 524pts.
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Run 1||Run 2||Total Time||Diff.||FIS Points|
|20||30||421669||HAUGEN Leif Kristian||1987||NOR||53.73||55.08||1:48.81||+2.57||17.42|
|Did not start 1st run|
|Did not qualify for 2nd run|
|Did not finish 2nd run|
|Did not finish 1st run|
|75||30149||SIMARI BIRKNER Cristian Javier||1980||ARG|