Spring was in the air as birds could be heard chirping at the start of the final regular season men’s World Cup giant slalom in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia. Austrian living legend Marcel Hirscher won his fourth GS of the season with a total time of 2:24.31, 0.46 seconds ahead of Norwegian Leif Kristian Haugen in second and 0.67 seconds ahead of another Scandinavian, Sweden’s Matts Olsson, in third.
Warm weather and high cloud cover made for an interesting combination of flat light and soft snow in the first run as Hirscher made easy work of the course en route to setting the pace by nearly a second in the morning. Frenchman Alexis Pinturault failed to finish his first run, leaving the door wide open for Hirscher to finish off yet another GS title. Haugen sat a distant 12th after the first run and Olsson sat in sixth, both well over a second off of the Austrian’s pace heading into the second run.
Weather worsened in the afternoon as the clouds lowered and rain began to fall, shrouding the top section of the course in fog and soaking fans in the finish. It was a challenge for racer after racer as early start numbers had the advantage in the wet conditions with several racers making large jumps in the standings. Haugen took the lead after his run and watched as racer after racer hemorrhaged time on the lower section of the course as he sat comfortably in the leader’s box. After a long course hold due to the weather made the subsequent racers non-factors until Olsson slid into second, Hirscher then stepped into the gate.
With a massive 1.69 second advantage over Haugen, it seemed improbable that a skier of Hirscher’s caliber would let the win slip through his fingers. Despite losing over a second of his advantage, Hirscher managed to walk away with the win, his fourth consecutive GS globe and fifth of his career, as well as securing a record-setting sixth consecutive overall title.
“Well, conditions were definitely not easy, for the fans as well waiting in the rain,” Hirscher said in the finish. “It’s good to have this race in the books, but it was a pretty hard and rough fight this second run. You try your best and every athlete does, but it is not easy, especially with a lot of waiting and the first pitch with the bad visibility but anyway, I’m super, super happy. I think this is the globe in GS, so what a day!”
“If I’m telling the truth, maybe it is a little too much for me right now,” he continued about his overall title. “It’s very emotional and I’m trying right now to do a very professional job, but I’m really, really thankful. I would like to just have three hours to myself after the ceremony to just think about what brought me to this point. It’s just amazing to have six consecutive overall World Cup titles. It is a record where I have to say ‘thank you’ to many, many people, especially to my girlfriend, Laura, to my family, and the team around me. They were amazing.”
Haugen has been on a roll in GS over the past few weeks, and this result only backs up his somewhat surprising bronze-medal performance at World Championships two weeks ago.
“I feel obviously great,” said Haugen. “It’s a career-best result and it was a rough race; I didn’t get the worst light, but I didn’t get the best either. I knew I had to fight hard and just not really think too much about the conditions. I think right now I’m skiing really well and I know that when I push hard, I ski my best. We’ve had these conditions before in the summer in Norway on the glaciers where you can’t see more than a couple of meters ahead of you and it’s raining, so I think it’s bringing back some of the stuff I’ve done when I was little.”
Despite the difficult conditions, Olsson knew that his second run wasn’t going to feel great and he just had to keep pushing on through the fog and rain and trust his abilities.
“The end result is great for me, but it was a really tough race with the weather, with the snow, with everything pretty much but in the end it was great,” Olsson said. “It was raining quite a lot in the second run. With rain and poor visibility, the snow and the bumps, everything together gets real difficult. You know that the second run will not be a good feeling and you just have to fight.”
For the Americans, David Chodounsky and Tim Jitloff finished back-to-back in 21st and 22nd, respectively. Tommy Ford did not finish his second run. Brennan Rubie and Kieffer Christianson did not finish their first runs and Ryan Cochran-Siegle and Hig Roberts did not qualify for the second run. As it stands after Saturday’s race, only Tommy Ford will make the top-25 in the standings cutoff for World Cup finals in Aspen, Colo.
The men now race slalom on Sunday, March 5 in Kranjska Gora to finish off the regular World Cup season before Finals in Aspen.
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1. Marcel Hirscher (AUT) – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
2. Leif Kristian Haugen (NOR) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
3. Matts Olsson (SWE) – Head/Head/Head
4. Manuel Feller (AUT) – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
5. Stefan Luitz (GER) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
5. Felix Neureuther (GER) – Nordica/Nordica/Marker
7. Florian Eisath (ITA) – Blizzard/Tecnica/Marker
8. Elia Zurbriggen (SUI) – Voelkl/Dalbello/Marker
9. Roland Leitinger (AUT) – Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
10. Loic Meillard (SUI) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Run 1||Run 2||Total Time||Diff.||FIS Points||WC Points|
|2||12||421669||HAUGEN Leif Kristian||1987||NOR||1:13.32||1:11.45||2:24.77||+0.46||3.12||80.00|
|15||17||422139||KILDE Aleksander Aamodt||1992||NOR||1:13.71||1:12.11||2:25.82||+1.51||10.25||16.00|
|Did not qualify for 2nd run|
|74||54106||BREITFUSS KAMMERLANDER Simon||1992||BOL|
|71||30149||SIMARI BIRKNER Cristian Javier||1980||ARG|
|70||491853||DEL CAMPO Juan||1994||ESP|
|51||990051||BOSCA Giulio Giovanni||1990||ITA|
|Did not finish 2nd run|
|Did not finish 1st run|