Mario Matt

Mario Matt, Olympic slalom champion, retires

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Mario Matt, the Austrian who became the oldest Olympic Alpine skiing champion in Sochi, announced his retirement Thursday.

“I’ve found out this season that ski racing isn’t the most important thing in my life anymore,” Matt said, according to The Associated Press. “While training on prepared, icy slopes, I knew I’d rather go powder skiing.”

Matt, 35, was a surprise gold medalist at the Winter Games, upsetting countryman Marcel Hirscher in the slalom. Matt came to Sochi with one World Cup victory since the 2010-11 season.

This season, Matt failed to finish the World Championships slalom and didn’t post any World Cup top-10s, his worst campaign since 2009-10.

The World Cup season continues — sans Matt — with a giant slalom and slalom in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, on Saturday and Sunday.

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Felix Neureuther
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German Felix Neureuther put a forgettable Olympics behind him, winning the first post-Olympic slalom in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, on Sunday.

Neureuther clocked a two-run time of 1 minute, 45.50 seconds for his fourth win this season, taking the lead in the World Cup slalom standings by five points with just the World Cup Finals left next Sunday.

Another German, Fritz Dopfer, was second, .59 behind. It marked the first time in World Cup history that German men went one-two in a race. Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen took third.

Austrian Olympic champion Mario Matt led after the first run but straddled a gate near the finish in his second run and fell across the line. U.S. Olympic giant slalom champion Ted Ligety was 16th.

Neureuther, 29, got into a car accident on his way to a Munich airport to fly to the Sochi Olympics on Feb. 14. He then performed poorly at the Games, taking eighth in the giant slalom and failing to finish his second slalom run. He had whiplash, rib and back injuries.

“The last weeks were really so hard for me with my car accident and then the Olympics and everything,” Neureuther said Sunday. “Winning after such a tough time for me out here is really something. It’s really amazing.”

The race for the overall World Cup title got a little more interesting Sunday, too.

Austrian Marcel Hirscher was fifth, grabbing 45 points to retake the lead over Norwegian Aksel Lund Svindal by four points.

Hirscher is trying to become the third man to win three straight World Cup overall titles and the first since American Phil Mahre from 1981-83.

The title will be decided at the four-race World Cup Finals in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, beginning Wednesday. It could be very close given Svindal stars in the speed events downhill and super-G, while Hirscher is a giant slalom and slalom specialist.

Kranjska Gora Slalom
1. Felix Neureuther (GER) 1:45.50
2. Fritz Dopfer (GER) 1:46.09
3. Henrik Kristoffersen (NOR) 1:46.29
4. Patrick Thaler (ITA) 1:46.36
5. Marcel Hirscher (AUT) 1:46.45
6. Jean-Baptiste Grange (FRA) 1:46.64
7. Mattias Hargin (SWE) 1:46.76
8. Alexis Pinturault (FRA) 1:46.78
9. Markus Larsson (SWE) 1:46.84
10. Axel Baeck (SWE) 1:47.13
10. Stefano Gross (ITA) 1:47.13
10. Manfred Moelgg (ITA) 1:47.13
16. Ted Ligety (USA) 1:47.54
23. Will Brandenburg (USA) 1:47.99
26. Nolan Kasper (USA) 1:48.11

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Norwegian Henrik Kristoffersen, 19, wins first World Cup race

Henrik Kristoffersen
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Mikaela Shiffrin isn’t the only teenage slalom phenom.

Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen won his first World Cup race Tuesday, taking a night slalom in front of a raucous crowd that included Arnold Schwarzenegger in Schladming, Austria.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Kristoffersen, who threw his ski poles to the ground, fell to the snow and pumped his arms after his second run, even though first-run leader Mario Matt still had to go. “To win my first World Cup race here in Schladming with 45,000, 50,000 spectators is just unbelievable.”

The Austrian Matt straddled a gate early in his second run, much to the disappointment of Schwarzenegger and the flare-waving crowd.

Kristoffersen won in a two-run time of 1 minute, 47.43 seconds. Another Austrian, world champion Marcel Hirscher, was second, .18 behind. German Felix Neureuther was third.

Americans Ted Ligety and Bode Miller straddled gates early in their first runs and did not qualify for the second run.

Ligety led Matt at the first split, encouraging for him. Ligety did win three World Championships in Schladming last February, but none of them came in slalom, one of his weaker events.

“This is aggressive snow and I was going for it,” Ligety said, according to The Associated Press. “I just started cutting in too soon. It’s always a bummer to straddle. It’s unfortunate. At least I was skiing pretty well. I feel like had my setup pretty dialed in now where I can actually start to look for speed in slalom.”

Top American David Chodounsky had blood on his face, bib and suit after a gate slammed his nose in the first run, according to the AP. He finished 22nd.

This was the final slalom before the Winter Olympics.

Kristoffersen is squarely in the medal mix — perhaps the gold-medal mix — with four slalom podiums this season. He’s tied for second in the World Cup standings with Neureuther behind Hirscher after six races.

Kristoffersen would be the youngest male medalist in Olympic Alpine history if he wins a medal in Sochi.

“I haven’t thought that much about the Olympics, actually,” said Kristoffersen, a two-time junior world champion. “I’ve been more focused on World Cup races. Of course it’s a boost [for Sochi]. I get a little bit more pressure now, but it’s OK.”

The Alpine skiing World Cup continues with a downhill and a giant slalom in St. Moritz, Switzerland, on Saturday and Sunday. They are the final races before the Olympics.

Schladming Slalom
1. Henrik Kristoffersen (NOR) 1:47.43
2. Marcel Hirscher (AUT) 1:47.61
3. Felix Neureuther (GER) 1:47.62
4. Fritz Dopfer (GER) 1:47.71
5. Alexis Pinturault (FRA) 1:47.76
6. Mattias Hargin (SWE) 1:48.38
7. Manfred Moelgg (ITA)  1:48.99
8. Markus Larsson (SWE) 1:49.15
9. Steve Missillier (FRA) 1:49.27
10. Reinfreid Herbst (AUT) 1:49.30
22. David Chodounsky (USA) 1:51.04

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