Marcel Hirscher outduels Henrik Kristoffersen for slalom victory
Kristoffersen finishes 2nd to maintain narrow season lead
Marcel Hirscher earned his 36th career win on the World Cup circuit Wednesday in Italy, edging Norwegian rival Henrik Kristoffersen by 0.21 seconds in a men's slalom.
The four-time overall champion from Austria was third after the opening leg but posted the fastest second-run time to finish in 1 minute, 54.54 seconds.
It was the third time in three slaloms this season that Hirscher and Kristoffersen shared the top-two spots — though the first time with the Austrian on top.
"It's super cool," Hirscher said about his rivalry with the 21-year-old Norwegian. "It gives me new motivation, new strength. Also in training I try to make another step forward."
Kristoffersen still led Hirscher by 0.07 toward the end of his final run but had a costly mistake in the last few gates before the finish.
"That is ski racing. But one mistake is OK," the Norwegian said. "I am satisfied. It was a good run. I heard Marcel was incredibly fast in the lower section."
Kristoffersen was reluctant to speculate about a duel with Hirscher for this year's World Cup slalom title, which the Austrian won the past three seasons.
"It's still a long way until [the final races in] St. Moritz," he said. "Now I think Marcel is the best, and I am close behind him."
Kristoffersen remained in the lead of the discipline standings with 280 points, 20 clear of Hirscher. Aleksander Khoroshilov of Russia is third with 114 points.
Canadian come up short
Eyeing his second victory after winning in Schladming a year ago, Khoroshilov led Hirscher by 0.10 after the opening run. However, he was already half a second behind the Austrian at the first split of his second run and finally came third, 0.32 off the winning time.
"The feeling was pretty good, especially in the second run," Hirscher said. "Henrik and Aleksander did an amazing job as well so it was pretty close as it's been all season so far."
Hirscher matched retired Benjamin Raich's total of 36 World Cup wins. They are runners-up to Austrian record holder Hermann Maier, who won 54 times.
It also was the Austrian's 17th slalom win, which put him third on the all-time list. Only Ingemar Stenmark of Sweden (40) and Alberto Tomba of Italy (35) had more wins in the discipline.
"It is nice. I am skiing a couple of years more so we will see at the end how far I can (go in) the rankings," Hirscher said. "Anyway, records are only for retired athletes, who are sitting in their seat and drinking a glass of red wine."
Hirscher went top of the overall standings again, leading Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway by 85 points. Svindal doesn't compete in slaloms.
World slalom champion Jean-Baptiste Grange of France finished 2.60 behind Hirscher in 18th.
Neither of the two Canadians competing — Phil Brown and Trevor Philp — were able to advance to the second run.
The race was moved from Zagreb because of a lack of snow. It was the first in a series of five slaloms within three weeks.
This weekend, a giant slalom and a slalom will be contested in Adelboden, with further slaloms to follow in Wengen, Kitzbuehel and Schladming.
With files from CBC Sports