Kristoffersen wins slalom, ends Hirscher's winning streak
By ERIC WILLEMSEN
Jan. 21, 2018
KITZBUEHEL, Austria (AP) — Henrik Kristoffersen of Norway finally won his first World Cup slalom of the season Sunday, ending Marcel Hirscher's five-race winning streak.
Carrying a 1.05-second lead over his Austrian rival from the opening run, Kristoffersen lost only 0.08 of his advantage in a wild second run in dense snowfall to claim his first victory of the season and 16th overall.
He narrowly avoided skiing out twice, and after crossing the finish he punched his chest with his right fist and fell on his back to celebrate the victory. It was his first since triumphing at another Austrian resort, Schladming, a year ago.
"It's really cool," Kristoffersen said. "The first run was really good. In the second run I was on the limit. I made some mistakes here and there but I just tried to keep going."
Kristoffersen set a World Cup record earlier this season by getting podiums in the first six slaloms without winning a race.
Continuing their slalom rivalry from past seasons into next month's Pyeongchang Olympics, Kristoffersen was runner-up to Hirscher in five races this season, including three giant slaloms. Ending that series at a race in Austria made it special, said the Norwegian, who resides in Salzburg.
"We have no slalom races in Norway so this feels like a home race for me," said Kristoffersen, who also won in Kitzbuehel two years ago. "Today was definitely a great feeling."
Not satisfied with his opening leg, Hirscher called his second run "acceptable."
"In training the last few days I felt that it would not go as smooth as in recent weeks," the Austrian said. "This was the maximum I could get out of this race. I am happy with 80 points. Henrik was a class better, he deserved the win today."
Daniel Yule of Switzerland was 1.35 behind in third for his first career podium, while the rest of the field finished more than 2.2 seconds off the lead.
"If I could have chosen any place for my first podium, Kitzbuehel would be high on the list," Yule said. "And I am the first human today after those two aliens, Henrik and Marcel. They are skiing at such a high level."
Britain's Dave Ryding, who finished runner-up to Hirscher last year for his career best result, trailed by 2.89 seconds in 25th after the opening run but posted the fastest time in the final leg to improve to ninth place.
Hirscher's Austrian teammate Michael Matt, who was second after the opening run, passed a gate at the wrong side and did not finish. Eight of the 30 racers who qualified for the second leg failed to complete their final run.
Earlier, many starters struggled in tough first-run conditions after overnight snowfall. On a difficult course set by his coach Jani Hladnik, Russia's Alexander Khoroshilov straddled a gate and failed in his bid to improve his slalom ranking ahead of the Olympics.
Hirscher needed a win to match Hermann Maier's Austrian record of 54 men's World Cup victories. Only Swedish standout Ingemar Stenmark (86) won more races.
Still leading the standings by 154 points over Kristoffersen, Hirscher remained on course for an unprecedented seventh overall title. Their slalom duel will continue at a night race in Schladming on Tuesday.