VAL D’ISERE, France — Marcel Hirscher quickly disappeared from the finish area after his disappointing opening run of a men’s World Cup slalom on Sunday.
The Austrian star went back to the hotel, studied video footage of his run, changed his ski equipment, and beat the field by a large margin few hours later.
“After the first run I was in shock about how much I struggled. It wasn’t easy for me,” said Hirscher, who ended up beating his main slalom rival, Henrik Kristoffersen of Norway, by 0.39 seconds, while Andre Myhrer of Sweden was another 0.01 behind in third.
“In the second run I wanted to try something different,” Hirscher said. “We used a completely different setup, and it has worked out perfectly.”
Hirscher and his team managed to adapt his skis better to the tough conditions on the Stade Olympique de Bellevarde course. Dense snowfall made for a slope with lots of soft spots, so Hirscher decided to use skis with less sharp edges.
It helped the six-time overall champion from Austria to overcome a deficit of more than half a second from the first leg, which Hirscher finished in eighth. It was the Austrian’s 47th career win and first in a slalom race since breaking his left ankle in a practice run in August.
“My skiing is good again, but my looseness is still miles away from where it once was,” said Hirscher, who trailed first-run leader Stefano Gross of Italy by 0.55 seconds after the opening leg.
Eyeing his second career win, Gross posted only the 20th fastest time in the final run and dropped to sixth. It was the fourth time that the Italian slalom specialist failed to capitalize on winning an opening run. His only triumph so far came in Adelboden, Switzerland, in January 2015. He also has 10 top-three finishes.
Many racers struggled on the course, which contained spots of slippery ice as well as soft snow, while snow on their goggles limited visibility. Before the start, course workers removed a 30-centimetre layer of fresh snow off the race line.
Kristoffersen, the second pre-race favourite alongside Hirscher, also improved after finishing 0.41 off the lead in fourth in the opening run.
“I had too many mistakes and I was at the limit so I am satisfied with second place,” the Norwegian said. “I took a lot of risks, was very fast in parts. But Marcel is an incredible ski racer, hats off to him.”
Kristoffersen also finished second in the season-opening slalom in Levi, Finland, in November, and has taken the lead in the discipline standings with 180 points, 46 clear of Hirscher.
Germany’s Felix Neureuther, who won the race in Levi, is out indefinitely after damaging his left knee in practice.
The men’s World Cup next travels to Val Gardena, Italy, for speed races on Friday and Saturday.
– The Associated Press
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