ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) — Marcel Hirscher returned to winning ways on Sunday, triumphing in the men’s World Cup slalom after he had missed the podium in the last two races.
The seven-time overall champion trailed Austrian teammate Marco Schwarz after the opening leg but posted the fastest time in the final run before Schwarz straddled a gate and failed to finish.
“It was today definitely not the easiest victory I have made so far,” said Hirscher, who has won 10 of the last 12 slaloms. “But in the end of the day I am super, super happy. It was quite a hard day of work.”
It was Hirscher’s 64th career win and 30th in the discipline. Only Sweden’s Ingemar Stenmark (40) and Italy’s Alberto Tomba (35) have won more men’s slalom races.
Hirscher rarely misses out on a podium in consecutive races. The last time he didn’t make the podium in three straight races was in February 2016.
After placing 26th in the last slalom of 2018 in Italy and starting the new calendar year by placing seventh in the city event in Oslo, he spoke of “a mini-crisis”.
His focus on winning is so big, that he calls finishing 26th or even seventh a “DNF,” a did-not-finish.
“After finishing two races with a DNF, it is nice to be back in the finish area with another 100 points. The last two races not scoring points was not fun, it was making me nervous, even after all those years,” he said, adding that “the people in Austria want to see me winning, or at least on the podium”.
And Hirscher was fast to acknowledge that Sunday’s win had “not really” ended his doubts.
“The feeling is a little bit weird with the changing conditions we have this year,” Hirscher said. “It is hard to find the right set-up for each terrain and for every condition.”
Alexis Pinturault of France was 0.60 seconds behind Hirscher in second, and Manuel Feller of Austria was another 0.02 further behind in third for his first career slalom podium.
Hirscher’s main rival in the slalom World Cup, Henrik Kristoffersen of Norway, finished in fifth place.
Pinturault returned to a slalom podium for the first time since winning in Wengen, Switzerland, five years ago.
“I had troubles finding my best level and with my skis and the setup. These were really hard years,” said the Frenchman, adding he had put more focus on slalom training again last summer.