Marcel Hirscher matched a legend. His biggest rival criticized snowballs thrown near him during his slalom run.
The Austrian Hirscher tied countryman Hermann Maier for second on the career men’s Alpine skiing World Cup wins list with his 54th on Tuesday.
Austria became the first nation to notch 500 men’s World Cup wins.
Hirscher, the six-time reigning World Cup overall champion, captured a night slalom in Schladming, Austria.
Norwegian rival Henrik Kristoffersen was second, .39 of a second behind and complaining that snowballs were thrown around him in his second run. Swiss Daniel Yule took third.
Kristoffersen said three snowballs were thrown in his eyesight in his second run, just before Hirscher took the last run of the night.
“They didn’t hit me, but still it’s quite annoying when you can, like, see something flying in towards you,” Kristoffersen said. “There were probably 50,000 spectators in Schladming and 49,997 are really good people. I love Austria. It’s like a home race for me. Then it’s kind of a little bit sad that three people can ruin it a little bit.
“This had nothing to do with Marcel beating me. He skied better. I wouldn’t have beaten him if nobody would have thrown snowballs.”
Kristoffersen appeared to tell Hirscher in the finish area about the snowballs.
“Really? I’m sorry,” Hirscher told Kristoffersen.
“I feel very sorry for Henrik,” Hirscher said later. “99.9 percent of the spectators are great, but this 0.1 people, it’s a little bit of a shame that we have these spectators.”
Maier made 268 World Cup starts in the 1990s and 2000s. Hirscher reached the same 54 wins in more than 50 fewer starts.
Only Swede Ingemar Stenmark has more men’s World Cup wins than the 28-year-old Hirscher, who has nine victories this season, matching his best for one campaign.
Stenmark won 86 races in the 1970s and 1980s, a mark that Lindsey Vonn is chasing. Vonn is at 79 victories.
Hirscher prevailed in six of the last seven World Cup slaloms, dominating going into his third Winter Games, where he hopes to add the only major prize missing from his trophy case — an Olympic gold medal.
Hirscher was upset in the Sochi Olympic slalom, taking silver behind countryman Mario Matt. He was fourth, fourth and fifth in three other Olympic races between 2010 and 2014.
The men’s Alpine World Cup continues with a downhill and giant slalom in Garmish-Partenkirchen, Germany, on Saturday and Sunday, streaming live on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app and airing on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and NBCSN.
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