Hirscher makes it 3 in a row
ADELBODEN, Switzerland—Austria's Marcel Hirscher can't be stopped. In the second run of the Audi FIS Ski World Cup Men's Slalom here, he skied through heavy snow and fog to take his third consecutive win of the week—and fifth win this season.
2011 World Cup Overall Champion Ivica Kostelic was .27 seconds back, earning him second place. Italy's Stefano Gross, skiing from the bib 24 position, attained his first career podium with third place.
However, Hirscher had a little help securing the win. First, Kostelic was a little more timid than usual. Secondly, Italy's Cristian Deville, who was tied with Hirscher after the first run, couldn't close the deal.
Kostelic, though pleased with his skiing, said he just didn't want to risk it today. “The last 10 gates were quite open, but unfortunately I have a history with the last 10 gates here in Adelboden," Kostelic said. "A few times I have had pretty big mistakes down here and I didn't want to let the skis run too soon. I guess that was where Marcel was risky and he got his victory.”
Kostelic couldn't beat Hirscher's time, but neither could Deville. He was the last skier of the day. If he skied well and finished, chances were that at least a podium was achievable. But he slipped up. In just the last few meters to the finish line, Deville was disqualified when he straddled gate 71 of 72 taking him out of the competition.
With the added difficulty of constant snow throughout the race, 10 centimeters of snow overnight and more than a meter of snow since Thursday, the famed Chuenisbargli race course has lived up to its reputation as being one of the most difficult pistes in the world. During the second run, four of the first 10 competitors skied out including GS Overall World Cup Champion Ted Ligety, Sweden's Markus Larsson (an unfortunate birthday present as he turns 33 on Monday), Sweden's Jens Byggmark, and Italy's Patrick Thaler. U.S's Bode Miller skied out in the first run, making it a frustrating weekend for him as he did not finish Saturday's giant slalom either. Young Nolan Kasper did the best of the U.S. Squad finishing 9th.
The weather made it difficult for all racers, including Hirscher. "The weather was really, really rough," he said. "The conditions were not the best, sometimes icy and bumpy, sometimes really soft. For me, it was probably the hardest slalom I ever skied."
Kostelic reiterated that statement: "I don't think the conditions could get much tougher than they were today."
However, in the end, it was Hirscher, Kostelic, and Gross on the podium. Wait, not so fast. Gross was asked to leave the podium that he had just been invited to as officials reviewed video analysis. There had been an 11th hour protest arguing that he had missed a gate early in the course. Yet, there was no such find and the original ruling stood. He then approached the podium for a second time.
"It was very very difficult," Gross said via English-speaking translator about having to step off the podium to wait out analysis. "I was third, but when I was told that I didn't struggle, I was very relieved and I was so happy cause I have to tell you something—I am very honest and if I had felt anything while I was skiing and had struggled, I would have stopped immediately but it was a sign of relief when I found out I had my first podium."
Hirscher is now leading the overall standings by 230 points. However, he is adament about skiing one race at a time and not thinking about the overall title. "I try not to think about it right now," he said. "There is a lot of time before the season ends so we will see what happens the next race."
However, Kostelic—who leap frogged Norway's Aksel Lund Svindel for second position overall—chimed in about Hirscher's possibliitles. "When you are winning every race you compete in," Kostelic said, "your confidence grows and you ride this wave of success. Marcel is in it right now...he is strong. I think two years ago, I said Marcel is a contender in the overall if he can dominate in the technical events. The question is, can he dominate all season?"