ZAGREB, Croatia – Before the 2015 evening slalom race got underway at Sljeme, Austrian Marcel Hirscher already held the record for the most World Cup wins by a male at the venue – two. By the time darkness enveloped the finish area, he managed to claim his second slalom victory of the season and third Vip Snow Queen Trophy of his career by an impressive .81-second margin on a night that saw straddles and crashes galore in both runs.
Hirscher bounced back from his disappointing seventh-place finish in Madonna di Campiglio before the Christmas holiday with some changes to his setup which he believes made all the difference in the world and helped him separate himself from the pack on an icy slope where some struggled with grip.
“A win is always very important, but it is very important for myself. You know, after a very disappointing seventh place in Madonna di Campiglio … we have done a couple of training days,” said Hirscher. “I’ve tested different setups, so I want to thank all my coaches, all my technician guys and as well the ski areas where I’ve trained. They all did a really great job, and I’m now in front of all these lights but in general we won today.”
Hirscher may be royalty now in Zagreb, but his history at the mountain prior to this winning streak wasn’t quite so glamorous with one failure to qualify for a second run, two DNFs on the first run, and a 15th-place finish in 2011.
“Once here my (first) run – too slow. Once I skied out. But in the last three years I won, so it is really great,” he said with a smile.
Although showing slow splits in the first run, German Felix Neureuther miraculously made up time on the final pitch that seemed to thwart so many and contributed to the high attrition rate in the race. He sat third after first run but was unable to make up quite enough time in the second to catch Hirscher, ultimately finishing as runner-up. Still, he is the only male skier to stand on the podium in all four slalom races contested so far this season.
“Today I have to say, it was so tough to ski – really hard – my feeling was so bad, and I was still fast. Also a little bit lucky that Daver Chodounsky went out and that Mattias (Hargin) had a pretty big mistake at the end of the course here, but that’s ski racing,” Neureuther reasoned. “It doesn’t matter when your feeling is bad, you just have to keep on pushing and that’s what I did.”
From bib 26, Chodounsky skied a blistering first run and stunned the crowd when he crossed the finish line in third at .77 seconds off Hirscher’s pace and only .02 seconds behind Hargin.
“That came from deep down – I really wanted it. I know I’ve been skiing well, I just needed to show it in a race. … It gives me confidence, for sure, that I can put it in there like that,” Chodounsky said after first run, as he tried to honor the lives of his two teammates who perished in an avalanche just yesterday. “It was tough to find focus today. We’re definitely skiing with heavy hearts. Bryce and Ronnie were great guys, good friends in the gym and on the slopes, so it was really tough but we’re skiing for them today – not just me, the entire team is skiing for them.”
Unfortunately, Chodounsky lost his line through a combination in the second run and skied out after posting a fast first split. Teammate Ted Ligety faced a similar fate though lower down the course where he straddled the entry gate to a hairpin on the final pitch with the finish line in sight. No North Americans scored on the day.
When the Swede Hargin struggled on the final pitch in the second run like so many before him, it opened the door for Neureuther to move in.
“I thought it was going to be a little bit easier, a lot of speed, but some parts were turning a lot. So it got quite difficult in some parts. I was getting pretty tired in the legs actually down here,” Hargin confessed.
Hargin’s bobble also offered Norwegian Sebastian Foss Solevaag the chance to secure his first career World Cup podium on his very first trip to Zagreb. He skied the second fastest second run to move up from eighth, after starting 18th, into third overall.
What was the 23-year-old who just missed the podium earlier this season in Levi by finishing fourth thinking about as he pushed out of the start in the second run?
“Go for it. There’s no tomorrow, so I wanted to charge it all the way down and it worked pretty good,” he said. “People always said Zagreb is a good hill and course for me, so I had a little bit of expectations but this is my first time here so it’s nice to do that good in my first experience here.”
There was opportunity for back-of-the-pack starters on the icy hill, but only Croatian Filip Zubcic and Swiss Bernhard Niederberger were able to take full advantage, moving up from bibs 57 and 63 to finish 15th and 21st, respectively. Zubcic enjoyed being in the spotlight as the top Croatian after hometown hero Ivica Kostelic finished 18th.
See more photos from today’s race here.
By Hank McKee
- Hirscher, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Neureuther, Nordica/Nordica/Marker
- Solevaag, Volkl/Fischer/Marker
- Hargin, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Khoroshilov, Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
- Baeck, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
- Gross, Volkl/Tecnica/Marker
- Dopfer, Nordica/Nordica/
- Grange, Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
- Yule, Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
Men’s World Cup slalom, Zagreb, Croatia, Jan. 6, 2015:
- It is a night race. … It is the 16th of 35 on the men’s 2015 World Cup schedule. … It is the fourth of ten originally scheduled men’s slaloms, of nine remaining after the cancellation of Munich’s city event. … It is the 17th race hosted by Zagreb, all of them slaloms. … The seventh for men. … Marcel Hirscher is the defending champion, though the race was moved to Bormio last season and won by Felix Neureuther.
- It is the 28th career World Cup win for Marcel Hirscher … his 15th in slalom. … It is his fifth win of the season in eight completed races … his second win of the season in slalom. … He has missed the podium only once this season. … He passes Benjamin Raich to become the top winning male slalom skier in Austrian World Cup history. … The winning margin is .81. … First eight finishers are within the same second top 13 within two seconds.
- It is the 33rd career World Cup podium placing for Felix Neureuther. … It is the seventh time he has finished second to Marcel Hirscher. … It is his fourth podium of the season.
- It is the first career World Cup podium for Sebastian-Foss Solevaag. … His previous best had been fourth in slalom at Levi earlier this season. … He has just nine scoring results.
- No North Americans score points, but David Chodounsky was third after the first run.
- Thirty-one skiers failed to legally complete the first run and eight more the second.
- Hirscher takes the lead of the World Cup overall standings to 676-624 over Kjetil Jansrud (did not race). … Dominik Paris (did not race) sits third with 405pts. … Ted Ligety (DNF second) is eighth with 326pts. … the top Canadian is Manuel Osborne-Paradis in 21st with 153pts.
- Neureuther leads the slalom standings 320-316 over Hirscher. … Fritz Dopfer (eighth in race) is third with 188pts. … Julien Cousineau leads North Americans on the slalom chart in 32nd with 15pts. … Chodounsky sits 34th with 14pts.
- Austria leads the men’s Nations Cup 2233-1354 over France. … Italy is third with 1`325pts. … The US is seventh with 953pts and Canada ninth with 384pts.
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|Did not qualify for 2nd run|
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|47||421669||HAUGEN Leif Kristian||1987||NOR|