In a season full of injuries and absences to other contenders, Marcel Hirscher once again reigned supreme.
The Austrian won a record-extending fifth straight men’s Alpine skiing World Cup overall title, clinching the crystal globe when his closest rival, Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen, decided to skip the World Cup Finals downhill in St. Moritz, Switzerland, on Wednesday.
Hirscher, 27, entered this week’s four-race finals with a nearly insurmountable 353-point lead over Kristoffersen. If it stands, it will be Hirscher’s largest margin of victory in the World Cup overall standings (309 points, 2013).
Winners receive 100 points per race, but the slalom and giant slalom specialist Kristoffersen has never entered a World Cup downhill, so the overall title was all but conceded to Hirscher before this week. The most points Kristoffersen can accrue this week is 300.
Hirscher has also never raced a World Cup downhill and wasn’t entered Wednesday, either. Swiss Beat Feuz won the race, while Peter Fill became the first Italian man to take a World Cup downhill season title.
Hirscher’s handful ties the record for non-consecutive men’s overall titles held by Luxembourg’s Marc Girardelli. The women’s record is held by Annemarie Moser-Pröll, who earned six total and five consecutively in the 1970s.
At 27, Hirscher is likely not done contending for crystal globes. He’s won eight races this season. One victory at the World Cup Finals — most likely in this weekend’s giant slalom or slalom — would tie his highest victory total for one campaign.
He’s never displayed such versatility as this season, winning races in slalom, parallel slalom, giant slalom and his first World Cup super-G victory. Hirscher is now at 39 career World Cup wins, sixth all time among men.
No doubt Hirscher had an easier path to this year’s overall title after season-ending injuries to longtime rivals and Olympic champions Aksel Lund Svindal and Ted Ligety.
In fact, Hirscher trailed Svindal by 107 points in the overall standings when the towering Norwegian tore an ACL crashing in the famed Hahnenkamm downhill in Kitzbuehel, Austria, on Jan. 23.
Svindal, 33, and Ligety, 31, are both much older than Hirscher. Kristoffersen, at 21, may be the one who eventually supplants the Austrian.
Hirscher owns World Championships slalom and super combined gold medals and slalom silver from Sochi, but his trophy chest lacks Olympic gold. He must wait another two years to check that off.