Alexis Pinturault

AP

Alexis Pinturault wins World Cup opener; Americans just miss podium

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SOELDEN, Austria (AP) — Widely regarded a main candidate to succeed retired Marcel Hirscher as World Cup overall champion, Alexis Pinturault passed his first test with flying colors on Sunday.

He beat teammate Mathieu Faivre to lead a French one-two finish in the World Cup season-opening giant slalom in spring-like, sunny conditions on the Rettenbach mountain glacier.

Pinturault held a slim lead of two-hundredths of a second over Faivre after the opening run but extended the margin to 0.54 in the final leg. It was the 12th time that Pinturault led a race after the first leg, and the ninth time he held on to the advantage to win the race.

“Everything is working really well, I have a good team around me,” Pinturault said. “That’s something that brings me a lot of self-confidence.”

Zan Kranjec of Slovenia came 0.63 behind in third, followed by American duo Tommy Ford and Ted Ligety, who trailed by 0.70 and 1.09, respectively.

Ford, with his best career World Cup finish, and Ligety, with his best since January 2018, came close to ending the U.S. men’s program’s longest World Cup podium drought in two decades. The American men had zero World Cup podiums last season for the first time since 1997-98.

Lucas Braathen of Norway posted the fastest second run to climb from 23rd to sixth, 1.10 behind Pinturault, while Swiss prospect Marco Odermatt dropped from third to 13th after coming wide on a left turn halfway down his final run.

Pinturault finished runner-up to Hirscher in the overall standings last season, making him one of the favorites to take over from the record eight-time champion from Austria as winner of the sport’s biggest prize.

“It’s not so easy for us that Marcel isn’t there anymore,” Pinturault said. “We have a lot of pressure, more than before. Usually all the pressure was on Marcel. But this is a wonderful start for me.”

Pinturault also won the traditional first GS of the season in the Austrian Alps when it was last held in 2016. The race was canceled due to bad weather in the past two years.

Sunday’s win was Pinturault’s 24th career victory, and 12th in giant slalom. He also won Olympic bronze in the discipline in 2018.

“This was the first event of the new season, you had to get used to racing again,” said Pinturault, adding it was “cool, a super start” for the French team to place 1-2.

The result came as a surprise for Faivre, who said before the race that his start in Soelden had been doubtful after back problems affected his pre-season training.

“It was a tough summer because of the injury. We didn’t really know how long it would take for me to heal,” Faivre said. “But training the last two weeks went very well. I had a lot of fun.”

While France led with the top-two spots, the U.S. ski team had an excellent start to the season as well with Ford and Ligety’s achievements backed up by Ryan Cochran-Siegle finishing in 11th.

Ford improved one spot from his previous best — a fifth place in Alta Badia, Italy, last season — on a hill where he had never scored World Cup points before.

“I am feeling strong. My first run was just solid skiing, real safe. The second run I definitely trusted it more and let it go. Psyched with this personal best,” said Ford, who posted a photo from the race on his Instagram account and wrote: “Nice way to score points for the first time in Sölden.”

In sharp contrast to Pinturault, another favorite in the post-Hirscher era struggled in the opening race.

GS world champion Henrik Kristoffersen failed to find his rhythm in the opening run and finished eight-tenth behind Pinturault, before he almost skied out in the final run, losing control of his inside ski in a wide left turn. The Norwegian ended up more than two seconds off the lead in 18th.

“It was a classic mistake that cost me,” Kristoffersen said. “But it’s only the first race of the season.”

The anticipated season-long duel between Pinturault and Kristoffersen will go into its next round at a slalom in Levi, Finland, on Nov. 24.

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MORE: 2019-20 Alpine skiing TV, live stream schedule

Marcel Hirscher clinches eighth-consecutive World Cup overall title

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Austria’s Marcel Hirscher can now lay claim to his eighth-straight World Cup overall title, after a third-place slalom finish in Slovenia. But it was Switzerland’s six foot, seven inch Ramon Zenhaeusern who skied away with his first traditional slalom World Cup win in Kranjska Gora today.

After today’s race, Hirscher’s closest competitor in the overall standings, France’s Alexis Pinturault, trails the Austrian by more points than can be won in the remaining races of the season. The point check was a formality as Pinturault is not likely to enter Wednesday’s downhill race at the World Cup Finals in Andorra.

With his latest overall title win, Hirscher also matches the World Cup record, set by the U.S.’ Lindsey Vonn, of 20 overall and discipline crystal globes won in a career. Hirscher does pass Vonn on the World Cup record list of most podium finishes, making his 138th career podium appearance today in Slovenia.

At the end of today’s first slalom run, Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen held a lead of more than half a second over the field, while Hirscher found himself eight tenths behind the leader in sixth place. Searching for his first podium finish of the season, Italy’s Manfred Moelgg was second with Pinturault in third.

Sitting in seventh place after his first run, Zenhaeusern came back with a masterful second run, overcoming a deficit of nine tenths of a second to overtake the lead. Skiing after Zenhaeusern, Hirscher laid down tracks well enough to pull into second place, just over a second behind Zenhaeusern.

Kristoffersen posed the final threat to Zenhaeusern, but he was unable to recover from mistakes made early in his second run to get the win, crossing the finish line over a second behind Zenhaeusern, but passing his rival Hirscher. Pinturault faltered, ending his day in seventh.

Full results are here.

Attention now turns to the 2018-19 World Cup Final which kicks off on Wednesday in Soldeu, Andorra with the men’s and women’s downhill, but the real action starts on Thursday for U.S. fans as Mikaela Shiffrin is expected to ski. The women’s super-G and giant slalom crystal globes are still up for grabs, with Shiffrin holding point leads in both disciplines.

Watch the women’s super-G live on Thursday beginning at 5:30 a.m. ET on TV and streaming on Olympic Channel and NBC Sports Gold, with an encore presentation airing on NBCSN on TV at 11:00 a.m. ET.

To see if Shiffrin can win the giant slalom crystal globe, watch the first run live on Sunday morning at 4:30 a.m. and the second run at 7:00 a.m. Live first run action will be streaming on OlympicChannel.com and NBC Sports Gold, with the second run airing live on TV and streaming with Olympic Channel and NBC Sports Gold.

Check out the full schedule below for times, events and where to watch live on TV and streaming.

ALPINE SKIING WORLD CUP FINAL — Soldeu, Andorra

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Wednesday 5:30 a.m. Men’s & Women’s Downhill Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
12:30 p.m. Men’s & Women’s Downhill* NBCSN
Thursday 5:30 a.m. Men’s & Women’s Super-G Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
11:00 p.m. Men’s & Women’s Super-G* NBCSN
Friday 7:00 a.m. Team Event Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
Saturday 4:30 a.m. Men’s Giant Slalom (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
5:30 a.m. Women’s Slalom (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
7:00 a.m. Men’s Giant Slalom (Run 2) Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
8:00 a.m. Women’s Slalom (Run 2) Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
Sunday 4:30 a.m. Women’s Giant Slalom (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
5:30 a.m. Men’s Slalom (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
7:00 a.m. Women’s Giant Slalom (Run 2) Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
8:00 a.m. Men’s Slalom (Run 2) Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
3:30 p.m. Women’s Giant Slalom* NBCSN

Marcel Hirscher dominates to win third slalom world title

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As he has done for most of this World Cup season, Austria’s Marcel Hirscher came out hot in the first run of the men’s slalom in Are, attempting to win his third world title in the event. But big events have not always worked out for the man ranked third on the all-time World Cup win list.

Hirscher’s body of work at events like the Olympics and world championships have, in the past, swung between the extremes of skiing superiority to disastrous mistakes. Thirty-two of Hirscher’s 68 career World Cup wins have come in slalom. He won his first slalom world championship title in 2013, but did not get his second until 2017. His attempt to win back-to-back titles in 2015 ended after he straddled a gate in the final run.

At the Olympics, Hirscher has not won a single slalom medal in three attempts. At the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, Hirscher shockingly fell in his opening run. He was skiing for his third gold medal in PyeongChang when he faltered.

Despite his career hiccups, there is no doubt that Hirscher is the most dominant slalom skier currently competing.

In Are, Hirscher made his statement early, slicing up the course, gaining speed as he rushed down the hill, posting a first run time that was well out of reach for the majority of the field.

NBC Sports’ Steve Porino pointed out many of the men were crossing the finish line completely “gassed,” gasping to catch their breath, indicating to Porino that many of them were exerting themselves in the flats, pushing off their skis at each turn to generate more speed.

None did it better than Hirscher.

The first run finished with Hirscher ahead of France’s Alexis Pinturault by a little more than a half second. Austria’s Marco Schwarz was nearly a full second and a half off the lead in third.

Skiing to just ahead of Hirscher in the second run, Pinturault showed he was gunning for the top podium spot. Pushing himself beyond his limit, Pinturault lost his balance mid-run, going down on the snow but quickly recovered to cross the finish line in third.

Hirscher now entered the start gate with just over a second and a half cushion. Once more he attacked the slalom course as if he were fighting from the back of the pack. Hirscher crossed the line to win his third world championship slalom title by more than two seconds.

“The first part I tried to push it really, really hard,” Hirscher said after the race. “There were two or three gates where it was bumpy, hopefully [I would] stay safe there and into the finish line.

“It is unbelievable, you know? After ’13, ’17 and now ’19, maybe my last world champs, finally get another gold medal.”

The 29-year-old Hirscher, who became a father back in October, has been forthcoming about his future in competitive Alpine racing, saying it’s “not the most important thing.”

It was an all-Austrian podium at the end of the day, with Hirscher’s countrymen Michael Matt winning silver and Marco Schwarz getting bronze. Although he made a remarkable recovery, Pinturault’s mistake cost him the podium, dropping the Frenchman to fourth.

Full results are here.

Hirscher’s slalom win is the first gold medal for Austria at these world championships. Hirscher also won silver in giant slalom earlier in Are.

With the 2019 World Championships now complete, World Cup competition picks back up with both the men and women back on skis on Tuesday for a city event in Stockholm. The two tours split for the upcoming weekend with the men skiing in Bansko, Bulgaria as the women travel to the Swiss Alps region of Crans-Montana. Check out the full slate below for ways to watch on the networks of NBCSN and Olympic Channel on TV and streaming.

ALPINE SKIING WORLD CUP — Stockholm, Sweden; Bansko, Bulgaria; Crans-Montana, Switzerland

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Tuesday 11:30 a.m. City Event – Stockholm Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
11:30 p.m. City Event – Stockholm* NBCSN
Friday 3:30 a.m. Men’s Combined (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
7:00 a.m. Men’s Combined (Run 2) Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
Saturday 4:15 a.m. Women’s Downhill Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
5:45 a.m. Men’s Super-G Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
Sunday 3:30 a.m. Men’s Giant Slalom (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
4:30 a.m. Women’s Combined (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
6:30 a.m. Men’s Giant Slalom (Run 2) Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
7:30 a.m. Women’s Combined (Run 2) Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
10:30 p.m. Women’s Combined (Run 2)* NBCSN

*Same-day delay