Hirscher chalks up 26th win to take overall lead
ARE, Sweden (AP) — Marcel Hirscher was bitterly disappointed to discover he would not be skiing on his favorite French slope but going to the icy-cold Sweden mountains instead.
The switch worked out perfectly.
The Austrian won Sunday’s World Cup slalom to add to his crushing victory in Friday’s giant slalom, mastering the conditions on the rock-hard Olympia course to perfection and moving top of the overall rankings.
He overcame a first-leg deficit of .25 seconds to edge out German skier Felix Neureuther by.10 for his 26th career victory — moving him level with Austrian great Franz Klammer.
The two races were initially scheduled to take place in Val d’Isere, France — where Hirscher has won two GS races before — but were moved to freezing northern Sweden due to a lack of snow in the French Alps.
“In the beginning, when I heard the decision about the replacement of the World Cup races to Are, I thought ’Oh my God, my lovely race hill in Val d’Isere is cancelled,” Hirscher said. “Finally, I have to say it doesn’t matter. It is good here in Are. I liked it.”
So did Russian Alexander Khoroshilov, who finished .15 behind for a career-best third place.
In the overall standings, Hirscher has 440 points, with Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud second with 412 and American Ted Ligety — who crashed out in Sunday’s second run — third with 246.
Hirscher, who beat Ligety by 1.22 seconds to win Friday’s giant slalom, is one of only five Austrian men to have won 25 career races and moves level with Franz Klammer.
Ligety was third after the first run but lost control of his skis midway down the second after taking a turn too wide and failed to finish.
Olympic champion Mario Matt of Austria, fourth quickest in the morning, also failed to finish his second run.
Hirscher now has a podium finish in all five races he has competed in so far this season.
He won the season-opening giant slalom at Soelden, Austria; finished second in slalom at Levi, Finland, and third in GS at Beaver Creek, Colorado.
“I’m tired at the moment. The past three weeks have been pretty hard for all of us, with a lot of travelling,” Hirscher said. “It is not easy at the beginning of the season until Christmas.”
His 26 wins put him three behind another Austrian great, Stephan Eberharter, whom Hirscher will be confident of catching this season. He will then be able to set his sights on veteran Benjamin Raich (36) next season. Hermann Maier remains way ahead, though, with 54 World Cup wins.
Neureuther was eyeing a 10th World Cup win, and eighth in slalom, but had to settle for his second podium of the season after again finishing behind Hirscher at Levi.
Khoroshilov had never finished higher than eighth and it was only his sixth top-10 finish.
Ligety, meanwhile, must wait a little longer before moving up on the all-time list of giant slalom winners. He is level in second place on 23 wins with Switzerland’s Michael von Gruenigen. Swedish great Ingemar Stenmark leads with 46.
Pushing hard to make up time, Ligety’s skis bumped off the rock-hard Olympia course and he could not regain control. He had four metal plates inserted into his left wrist after a training accident nearly three weeks ago.
U.S. men’s coach Sasha Rearick said Ligety will stay and “train a couple of days on the steeps” in Are to work on his balance.
“Ted was charging and having a good run,” Rearick said of Sunday’s performance. “Ted was doing what he needed to do to step on the podium today.”