Austria's Marcel Hirscher earns 1st victory in Kitzbuehel
Canadian Mike Janyk skis to season-best 14th place finish
Marcel Hirscher was cheered by 21,000 Austrian ski fans in Kitzbuehel, including a standing ovation from Austria-born Arnold Schwarzenegger, after earning his tenth career World Cup slalom victory on Sunday.
Hirscher became the first Austrian since Klaus Kroell in 2009 to win a race at the Hahnenkamm event, one of the classic stops on the men's World Cup calendar.
Hirscher, who placed third in the opening leg, was fastest in the second run to finish in a combined time of one minute, 44.34 seconds for his 17th career title. It was Hirscher's first ever win in Kitzbuehel.
"If you want to be among the greatest skiers, you have to win in Kitzbuehel at least once," Hirscher said. The defending overall champion extended his lead in both the overall and slalom World Cup standings.
In the fight for the overall title, Hirscher has 1,035 points to lead Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal by 114.
Felix Neureuther of Germany came 0.77 back in second, and Ivica Kostelic of Croatia finished third, 0.91 behind Hirscher.
Canadian Mike Janyk skied to a season-best 14th place finish.
"I’m happy. It was like the old Mike in the second run," Janyk said in a release. "I’ve been doing it in training but needed to do it on race day. I was super happy to make the next step. Top 15 is where I set my goal for today."
Kostelic won the combined event, which adds the slalom results to those from Saturday's downhill, and became the first skier to win that competition for four straight years. French skiers Alexis Pinturault and Thomas Mermillod Blondin were second and third.
Kostelic also matched Norway's Kjetil Andre Aamodt's record of six straight podium finishes in this event.
Hirscher, who was beaten by Neureuther in a slalom in Wengen, Switzerland last week, has won five races and finished on the podium 13 times this season.
With each victory worth 100 points, the Austrian has now gained a stunning 700 points in eight slaloms this season. Neureuther trails him by 134 points in second.
"It's not getting easier, the pressure is immense," Hirscher said. "If you get so many podiums in one season, you expect yourself to finish top five in each race."
Hirscher used an attacking yet error-free second run to win the race after trailing Stefano Gross and Giuliano Razzoli in the opening run. Both Italians, however, had costly mistakes in their final runs and finished 11th and fourth, respectively.
"It was a very, very tough race," Neureuther said. "In the second run, I raced tactically smart. Marcel showed the aggression you need to win here. He was always going to be the man to beat."
Kostelic called himself fortunate after finishing on the podium despite being more than 0.4 seconds off the top three in his opening run.
"I was lucky today and I wasn't expecting a top-three finish anymore," said Kostelic, adding that he admired the run of Austrian veteran Benjamin Raich. "I was inspired by the way Benni was skiing today."
Raich posted the second-fastest time in the final leg, just 0.10 slower than Hirscher, to climb from 25th to fifth place.
In a difficult first run, 28 racers failed to finish. The slalom gates were placed by Italian technical coach Jacques Theolier after an initial course set by Croatia's Ante Kostelic, father of Ivica and former women's overall champion Janica, was rejected as being too difficult by the international ski federation.
According to FIS men's race director Guenter Hujara, the course was "unskiable" and Kostelic refused to change it, prompting the jury to ask the Italian team to replace the gates.
The new course still proved an uphill task for most, with Mario Matt of Austria, Manfred Moelgg of Italy, Ted Ligety of the United States, last year's winner Cristian Deville of Italy and slalom world champion Jean-Baptiste Grange of France among those who failed to finish.
Ligety skied out after five gates, failing to score points for a second straight day after missing a gate in the downhill. He finished sixth in Friday's super-G and remained in third place in the overall standings with 736 points.
"Kitz weekend started well but went sideways fast. Literally and figuratively," Ligety wrote on Twitter.
This is the last season Kitzbuehel will run the classic combined event of downhill and two slalom runs on consecutive days. The competition is likely to be replaced next year by a super-combined event with a speed race and one slalom run on the same day.
"I've always said it would be a shame if the classic combination disappears," Kostelic said. "In one or two years, I am gone, and in a couple of years, Guenter Hujara will also be gone. But this classic combination has survived all of us. I can't believe they're going to destroy it."
A limited group of slalom skiers will take part in a city event in Moscow on Tuesday, the last World Cup race before the Feb. 5-17 world championships in Schladming, Austria.