With the clock ticking down to the start of the Olympics, every race is becomes more critical for fine-tuning things before heading to Sochi.
One skier who seems to be well dialed in is Austria’s Marcel Hirscher, who fought through the soft snow and rapidly deteriorating course conditions to win the World Cup slalom in Adelboden, Switzerland.
Hirscher, the two-time defending World Cup overall champion, lost some most of his first-run advantage at the top of the second run but was masterful carving through the gates on the steep final pitch to finish in front of Sweden’s Andre Myhrer, by 0.29 seconds. The runner-up effort was the best of the season for Myhrer and the 16th slalom podium of his career.
“It is really tough,” Hirscher said. “But I am not sure which was tougher, to ski it or prepare the course with weather at 10-plus degrees (Celsius). But it’s kind of a special race and it’s working pretty well for me.”
Teenager Henrik Kristoffersen of Norway was third, 0.66 behind Hirscher. It matched the best finish of his young career, another third-place performance in Levi, Finland on Nov. 17, and came one day after he almost collided with a television production worker who strayed on the course during Saturday’s giant slalom.
“I skied over the back of his skis,” Kristoffersen told AP. “I was definitely touching him a little bit there. (It) happens. We’re only humans.”
The victory earned Hirscher his 25th career podium placement in the discipline, making him the 12th skier in history to score as many Top 3 finishes. At 24 years and 316 days old, he is also the third youngest ever to accomplish the feat behind Ingemar Stenmark of Sweden (21 years, 270 days) and Gustav Thoeni of Italy (23 years, 336 days).
With 100 race points for victory, Hirscher now leads Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway by 23 points in the overall standings. Svindal skips slalom races.
American David Chodounsky had a strong showing, toughing out the second run to finish eighth, the second-best slalom result of his career behind Dec. 15’s seventh-place showing in Val d’Isere, France. With just two more slalom races before the Games, the 29-year-old is pleased with his progression.
“It’s a really tough sport, especially on days like today,” Chodounsky said. “It was fast and it’s the steepest pitch on the tour but for me it was solid. This year, the snow is not great and it’s very warm. The course gets rutty. In the second run it starts to get dark as the sun goes down. It’s got all sorts of tricks to throw at you. I had a couple of mistakes but if I can clean that up, it will be really good. I am happy with where I am.”
Adelboden wasn’t as kind to American stars Ted Ligety and Bode Miller.
Ligety, who caught an unlucky bump and straddled a gate during the second run of giant slalom on Saturday, skied off course again in the second run of slalom. Miller, a winner on this course in slalom in 2002, skied out in Saturday’s first run of giant slalom and then lost his race line and speed at the top of the final pitch in this race and finished 43rd, not good enough to make the Top 30 and earn a second run.
Fellow American teammates Colby Granstrom and Nolan Kasper finished 39th and 44th respectively, and did not qualify for a second run.
Germany’s Felix Neureuther, who won the Bormio slalom last Monday and was a surprise and historic winner in Saturday’s giant slalom, had his dream bid for an unprecedented technical sweep in Adelboden dashed when he straddled a gate and skied off course late in the second run. No German man has won back-to-back World Cup slalom races since Armin Bittner in 1988-89. Neureuther’s father, Christian, also won consecutive slaloms in January 1973 and January 1974.
Adelboden Men’s Slalom
1. Marcel Hirscher (AUT) 1:49.75
2. Andre Myhrer (SWE) 1:50.04
3. Henrik Kristoffersen (NOR) 1:50.41
4. Mattias Hargin (SWE) 1:50.55
5. Manfred Moelgg (ITA) 1:50.75
6. Patrick Thaler (ITA) 1:50.97
7. Markus Larsson (SWE) 1:51.06
8. David Chodounsky (USA) 1:51.45
9. Stefano Gross (ITA) 1:51.49
10. Benjamin Raich (AUT) 1:51.59
DNF. Ted Ligety (USA)
DNQ. Bode Miller (USA)
DNQ. Nolan Kasper (USA)
DNQ. Colby Granstrom (USA)