KITZBUEHEL, Austria — A perfect week of racing in Kitzbuehel, Austria, wrapped up on Sunday with the men’s slalom down the legendary Ganslern slope. The Austrian faithful were once again treated to a home win as superstar Marcel Hirscher took the victory with a combined time of 1:45.23 seconds, 0.76 seconds ahead of surprise second-place finisher Dave Ryding of Great Britain. Russia’s Alexander Khoroshilov rounded out the podium in third, 1.11 seconds off of Hirscher’s pace.
A tricky first-run set combined with the Ganslern’s infamous terrain saw several of the pre-race favorites make early exits, including Norwegian phenom Henrik Kristoffersen and Italy’s Manfred Moelgg. Ryding wowed the crowd with the fastest opening run, besting many big names in the process. Hirscher sat an uncharacteristic ninth after the first run, over one second off of Ryding while Khoroshilov was comfortably in fourth.
The sun tucked behind the Tyrolian mountains in the afternoon and cast the slope in shadow as the second run got underway. Hirscher, as he has done so many times throughout his career, laid it all on the line and skied like a man possessed en route to crossing the line with an almost two-second advantage with eight racers to go. Alas, nobody could match the Austrian’s pace as Ryding slid into second place, giving Great Britain it’s first ever World Cup slalom podium and first podium in any discipline since 1981.
After some sluggish skiing in the first run, Hirscher did some soul searching and made the decision that it was a win or nothing at all in the second run.
“You know, after the first run, that was for sure not what I was looking for,” he said. “So often in this season so far, the first runs are not my best ones, maybe too much thinking of making points (for the overall). I don’t know. Between the runs, I was thinking about what I can do to be faster in the second run. At the end, it was the complete trust in myself to take the risk. Before second run, we discussed it; take the risk, it doesn’t matter if I ski out or not. It is racing and not a tactical game.”
Ryding, who was ranked outside of the top-30 racers just last season and didn’t start racing until he was a teenager after learning to ski on a dry-slope, couldn’t even imagine getting on the podium — much less at Kitzbuehel — and hopes to inspire a new generation of British skiers to follow in his footsteps.
“I never even dreamed it,” a stunned Ryding said in the finish. “It’s so far beyond my dream that it’s just like, ‘Is this really happening? Am I really doing this in Kitzbuehel, of all places?’ It’s incredible, I’m speechless. Crossing the line, I couldn’t believe it; it was just so cool that it really happened. Coming down into second felt like a win. I had two runs where I really did exactly what I wanted. I just hope it inspires a whole generation now and we can take from this, like, it’s been so long since a Brit was in the top ten — never mind a podium. All the Brits out there, it’s time to go and we can do it.”
After some early season injury struggles, Khoroshilov was happy to climb back onto a World Cup podium, but admitted that he doesn’t think that anyone could have beaten Hirscher on Sunday.
“I’ve had some injuries before, but now I am in good shape,” Khoroshilov said. “I am really happy to be on the podium every time, and it’s amazing, especially in Kitzbuehel. It’s a quite difficult slope and also, you need some experience to ski fast here. I think it’s almost impossible to beat Marcel. He is really fast. Every time second run, he is pushing like hell. I tried also, but I made some mistakes on the top, so it was not easy to catch him. Congrats to him and especially Dave also.”
It was a tough day for the Americans as only David Chodounsky qualified for the second run. Unfortunately, after waking up and feeling under the weather, Chodounsky got hung up at the bottom of his second run and did not finish after posting leading split times for the length of his run. The rest of the Americans, Robby Kelley, Mark Engel, Michael Ankeny, AJ Ginnis, and Ryan Cochran-Siegle either did not qualify for the second run or did not finish the first.
Canadian Erik Read, however, continued his season of breakthrough performances and captured an impressive seventh-place finish. Also of note was Norwegian DU product Leif Kristian Haugen and UVM alum Jonathan Nordbotten, who finished the day in fourth and ninth, respectively.
The men now head to Schladming, Austria, for the iconic night slalom on Tuesday, Jan. 24.
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- Marcel Hirscher (AUT) – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Dave Ryding (GBR) – Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
- Alexander Khoroshilov (RUS) – Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
- Leif Kristian Haugen (NOR) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Daniel Yule (SUI) – Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
- Felix Neureuther (GER) – Nordica/Nordica/Marker
- Erik Read (CAN) – Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
- Marco Schwarz (AUT) – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Jonathan Nordbotten (NOR) – Head/Head/Head
- Alexis Pinturault (FRA) – Head/Head/Head
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Run 1||Run 2||Total Time||Diff.||FIS Points||WC Points|
|4||34||421669||HAUGEN Leif Kristian||1987||NOR||54.23||52.15||1:46.38||+1.15||7.87||50.00|
|Disqualified 1st run|
|Did not qualify for 2nd run|
|71||170151||DYRBYE NAESTED Casper||1996||DEN|
|66||491853||DEL CAMPO Juan||1994||ESP|
|Did not finish 2nd run|
|Did not finish 1st run|
|73||54106||BREITFUSS KAMMERLANDER Simon||1992||BOL|
|72||540026||DICKSON SOMMERS Rodolfo Roberto||1997||MEX|
|68||60236||VAN DEN BROECKE Dries||1995||BEL|