Marcel Hirscher clinches record 7th World Cup overall title

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KRANJSKA GORA, Slovenia (AP) — Marcel Hirscher capped his stellar season by securing an unprecedented seventh overall World Cup title on Sunday.

Dominating the penultimate slalom of the season, the double PyeongChang Olympic champion from Austria stretched his lead over his only remaining rival, Henrik Kristoffersen, to 289 points. The Norwegian, a specialist in technical races, cannot overtake Hirscher because he will only compete in two more events this season.

“This is so surreal, I can’t believe it,” said Hirscher, who also locked up the slalom and GS titles this weekend, two weeks before the season-ending races in Sweden.

“Now I am going for one week vacation to Are,” he quipped. “That is always really nice because the stress has gone away.”

Building on a big first-leg lead of 0.82-seconds over Kristoffersen, Hirscher did not hold back in his final run and extended the margin to 1.22 seconds, a country mile in the sport.

Ramon Zenhaeusern of Switzerland was 1.61 behind in third, while PyeongChang gold medalist Andre Myhrer, who was third after the opening run, dropped to 24th.

Shortly after finishing and with his skis still clipped on, Hirscher fell on his back and celebrated the victory.

“Incredible. You can’t believe it’s possible,” he said after becoming the first skier in the 51-year history of the World Cup to win seven overall titles. No other male skier has won more than five, and fellow Austrian Annemarie Moser-Proell won six times on the women’s circuit (though not all consecutive) in the 1970s.

Sunday’s victory also gave Hirscher this year’s slalom title with a race to spare, a day after he also locked up the season-long title in the giant slalom.

“With all the problems before the season started, with the broken ankle, it is… I can’t find the right words. It is very surreal,” said Hirscher, who missed all of his preseason preparation after fracturing his ankle while straddling a gate on his first training day on snow in August.

“The summer really wasn’t easy. It went from a possible end of career to my best season,” Hirscher said after Sunday’s win, his 12th of the World Cup season and 57th overall.

Last month, Hirscher crowned his illustrious career by adding the only prize he was missing — Olympic gold. He won the super combined and the giant slalom, but came up short as clear favorite in the slalom, where he went out in the opening run.

“I don’t know, to be honest,” Hirscher said when asked about his next goals. “I am happy to go home now and enjoy this. I have to make up my mind where my journey goes next.”

Hirscher said the ongoing rivalry with Kristoffersen, who beat the Austrian for the slalom title two years ago, has enabled him to further raise his level.

“Hats off, the future belongs to this young man,” Hirscher said about the 23-year-old Norwegian. “He has made it really tough. He performed, performed, performed, and made no mistakes so I had to bring something extra all the time.”

Kristoffersen, who performed a deep bow to Hirscher at the prize giving ceremony after Sunday’s race, called the Austrian “the best ski racer in the world.”

“So it’s OK for me to be second. At the moment he is just better, so it’s OK when he wins the slalom globe, the GS globe, the overall globe,” Kristoffersen said.

The men’s World Cup continues with a downhill and a super-G in Kvitfjell, Norway, next weekend.

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MORE: Best Alpine skiing moments from PyeongChang Olympics

Reigning world champ Marcel Hirscher misses out in slalom

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Austria’s Marcel Hirscher, the reigning world champion and 2014 Olympic silver medalist, missed a gate and skied out in his opening slalom run at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Bode Miller, NBC’s Alpine skiing analyst and a six-time Olympic medalist, called Hirscher’s mistake “one of the biggest upsets in this Games.”

Slalom features two runs. The times are added together, and the fastest total time determines the winner.

The second run is scheduled for 11:30 p.m. ET. Watch live by clicking here.

Marcel Hirsher has chance at Winter Olympic history

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Austria’s Marcel Hirscher, who has already won the giant slalom and combined gold medals in PyeongChang, is the clear favorite in the event.

The reigning world champion has finished top-three in each of the last six World Cup seasons, winning four titles. This season he has won six of his eight World Cup slaloms.

But he is still looking for his first Olympic gold medal in the event, after finishing second to fellow Austrian Mario Matt in Sochi.

Hirscher is hoping to become the first male Alpine skier to win three Olympic gold medals at the same Games since France’s Jean-Claude Killy in 1968.

How to watchRun 1: Wednesday, Feb. 21, 8:00 p.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Run 2: Wednesday, Feb. 21, 11:30 p.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen has been Hirscher’s main giant slalom rival this season, finishing second or third to Hirscher in all six of Hirscher’s World Cup slalom victories.

2014 Olympic champion Mario Matt is retired, but his younger brother, Michael, will be representing Austria.

U.S. athletes to watch
David Chodounsky, Mark Engel and Nolan Kasper will start for the U.S.

None of them rank higher than 30th in the World Cup standings.

Kasper was the top American in the event at the 2014 Sochi Games, finishing 13th. Chodounsky was the top American at 2017 Worlds, placing 12th.