WENGEN, Switzerland — Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen continued his streak of classic slalom victories on Sunday by taking the win in Wengen, Switzerland, with a combined time of 1:43.31 seconds. Austrian Marcel Hirscher was hot on Kristoffersen’s heels in second, a slim 0.15 seconds back, and Germany’s Felix Neureuther rounded out the podium in third, 0.63 seconds off of the Norwegian’s pace.
Sunday’s race took place back on the traditional slalom hill in Wengen after last year’s had to be held on the bottom of the downhill track due to a lack of snow. Cloud cover was in-and-out throughout the day, but hard snow and fast racing conditions provided for a lively atmosphere at the finish. Kristoffersen set the pace in the morning as Hirscher and Neureuther sat in fourth and thirteenth place, respectively, after the tightly-packed first run.
It was tight racing once again in the second run as Neureuther took to the course and skied himself in to a comfortable leading margin at the finish after a particularly strong middle and bottom section separated him from the rest of the field. As racer after racer fell to the German’s pace, Hirscher matched Neureuther turn-for-turn and slid into the lead and awaited Kristoffersen’s challenge.
It looked to finally be Hirscher’s day as Kristoffersen bled time at each interval, even finding himself behind at the last split before eking ahead in the final few gates for the narrow win.
Sunday’s win puts Kristoffersen equal with the legendary Marc Girardelli of Luxembourg with 13 slalom wins a piece before turning 23 years old. Only Sweden’s Ingemar Stenmark has won more slaloms before his 23rd birthday with 20.
“At the moment, I’m skiing pretty good,” Kristoffersen admitted after the race. “I’m really happy to come away with a win here today with how the course setting was, so it was a good day for sure. Today was a little bit more difficult with the course being so fast and straight; I like it a little bit more when it’s turnier and a bit more difficult.”
Although missing out on another victory by mere hundredths of a second does sting, Hirscher was nonetheless content to walk away from Wengen with another 80 points to add to his lead in the overall standings.
“It is definitely a day where I can say I’m happy with eighty more points in the books,” he explained. “I’m happy with the result and the skiing was not too bad, two solid runs, especially in the second run. It is maybe a half meter of difference with the time, and there is always this kind of battle between Henrik and the rest of the world and for sure, we are searching and fighting to beat Henrik because he is definitely the fastest man on earth on slalom skis.”
Neureuther used his frustration over a disappointing first run as motivation to charge his way to another World Cup podium, his third this season.
“I had two did not finishes at the end of 2016, so I wasn’t that confident in the new year, so it was very important for me to be on the podium here again. I have three good results now in the new year, and Kitzbuehel and Schladming are next, so I really look forward to that,” said Neureuther. “If I ski in the first run like I did in the second run, then it’s possible (to catch Kristoffersen). I wasn’t happy with my first run, I skied very passive. When you are racing against Henrik or Marcel, you can’t do any mistakes because you have no chance.”
For the Americans, independent skier Robby Kelley managed to score his career first World Cup slalom points in 25th, but was hungry to improve on his performance heading into the remainder of the slalom season.
“I was really happy with how I skied first run.” Kelley explained. “I was fourth on the pitch in the first run, so I was trying to maybe even get a little more going into the pitch second run and went a little too straight into it. It’s a bummer; I didn’t have a great run, but I’m happy to get some points.”
Unfortunately, the remainder of the American contingent did not fare so well as David Chodounsky straddled a gate in the second run after a strong first run. Mark Engel and Hig Roberts did not qualify for a second run, and Michael Ankeny and AJ Ginnis did not finish their first runs. Kelley is the fifth American male to score World Cup slalom points this season, indicating that the American squad has some impressive depth going forward.
Also noteworthy was the performance of Austria’s Christian Hirschbuehl, who went from bib 46 to finish just off the podium in fourth, 0.75 seconds back. Norwegian and former DU Pioneer Leif Kristian Haugen managed to lay down the second fastest first run from bib 30, but straddled a gate midway through his second run and did not finish.
The men now head to Kitzbuehel, Austria, for Hahnenkamm week with downhill, super-G and slalom racing Jan. 20-22.
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- Henrik Kristoffersen (NOR) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Marcel Hirscher (AUT) – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Felix Neureuther (GER) – Nordica/Nordica/Marker
- Christian Hirschbuehl (AUT) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Julien Lizeroux (FRA) – Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
- Mattias Hargin (SWE) – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Alexander Khoroshilov (RUS) – Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
- Manfred Moelgg (ITA) – Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
- Robin Buffet (FRA) – Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
- Stefan Luitz (GER) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Run 1||Run 2||Total Time||Diff.||FIS Points||WC Points|
|Disqualified 1st run|
|Did not qualify for 2nd run|
|66||60236||VAN DEN BROECKE Dries||1995||BEL|
|Did not finish 2nd run|
|30||421669||HAUGEN Leif Kristian||1987||NOR|
|Did not finish 1st run|
|67||54106||BREITFUSS KAMMERLANDER Simon||1992||BOL|