Dream weekend for Austria's Hirscher
By Brian Pinelli
Val d'Isère, France
Racing with the confidence of a seasoned veteran, 20-year-old, Marcel Hirscher aggressively ripped down the Face de Bellevarde piste during his second run of Sunday's giant slalom. With the likes of the Italians' Massimiliano Blardone and Manfred Moelgg, as well as his idol, Benjamin Raich down bottom in the top three positions, the young Austrian increased his lead at every time interval. Hirscher crossed the finish line a whopping 0.77 seconds ahead of Blardone earning his first career World Cup win.
"It's unbelievable," said Hirscher after the race. "In the finish after winning, I was thinking what the heck should I do right now. It's not normal for me to win, it's a very special moment. I try to be good every time, at every competition, at every training and today I am the best."
To lay down such a sensational run, with seemingly an enormous amount of pressure on his shoulders, the rising star had to try and remain cool, calm and collective.
"Yes, it was tough for me," said Hirscher. "In the starting gate, Massimiliano was in the lead and the crowd was making very much noise and I heard it. I thought I needed to push hard and take 100% risk."
On a slope that frustrated so many of the world's talented racers, Hirscher's strategy worked. He denied Blardone the win also knocking his teammate Raich down to third place.
"He dares to ski really fast," said Raich about the first-time winner. "It is not so easy. Already some time ago, I noticed how good a skier he is. He has a great future in skiing."
Hirscher also performed impressively on Friday picking up his first podium of the weekend, taking 2nd in the combined. Prior to the race, the Austrian even considered skipping it. It must have seemed like a dream to Marcel standing on the podium, not once but twice with the experienced Raich.
"When I was ten-years-old, I was always watching Benni," said Hirscher. "He's a great skier and was my idol ten years ago. It's amazing to be on the National team with him and share success."
Blardone, a four-time World Cup giant slalom winner, was also impressed by the up-and-coming Austrian.
"He did very well, he reminds me of myself," said Blardone after Sunday's race. "For me, it's not a surprise, especially on this very hard slope."
Hirscher seemed more than proud not only about his personal success, but also regarding contributing to his nation's stellar effort in France. With Friday's super combined being won by Raich, and Saturday's super-G by Michael Walchhofer, the Austrians have seemed to turned the tide on Switzerland.
"It's very important," said Hirscher about the weekend in Val d'Isère. "The Swiss guys have been so good, especially Janka winning three times last weekend. It was a little bit difficult for us in Austria. Everybody was really wondering what was going on with our skiers. I think we are now in the same position with Switzerland. We'll see what happens next weekend."
Heading into next weekend's races in Val Gardena and Alta Badia, Italy, Hirscher currently stands seventh in the World Cup standings with 235 points. Benjamin Raich overtook Janka, who failed to score any points over the weekend, and is now leading 486 to 460. With his victory Saturday, Walchhofer moved up to sixth overall with 268 points.
Hirscher and the Austrians will once again do battle with the Swiss and Italians for four days this upcoming weekend. On the slate for Val Gardena is a super-G on Friday and a downhill on the Saslong course on Saturday. The tour then shifts to Alta Badia for a giant slalom on Sunday and a slalom on Monday.
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