Marcel Hirscher clinches World Cup slalom title
Beats rival Felix Neureuther in Lenzerheide, Switzerland
Marcel Hirscher beat Felix Neureuther in a testy Austria vs. Germany duel for the World Cup slalom title on Sunday in Lenzerheide, Switzerland.
Racing last as the controversial first-run leader, Hirscher finished 0.76 seconds inside Neureuther's time to overtake his rival in the standings.
Hirscher then circled the finish area in a wide sweep, pounding his chest with his right fist in celebration.
Earlier, Austrian and German team bosses had traded barbs before the decisive run over a first-run gate-setting design by one of Hirscher's coaches.
"At the end, everything is fine," said Hirscher, who added his second straight slalom trophy to the third straight overall title he clinched Saturday.
Neureuther said he had been "quite mad" after his first run, but acknowledged Hirscher as a worthy winner.
"A very, very tough end," said Neureuther, who was denied his first season-long title. "The last race was maybe the most difficult of the whole year. The best won and it was Marcel."
Olympic champion Mario Matt was third, trailing 1.08 behind his Austrian teammate's two-run time of 2 minutes, 7.74 seconds.
Hirscher had led by 0.06 on the morning course. He raced first on the best snow through a gate-setting by an Austria coach that was branded unfair and ugly by Neureuther's team director, Wolfgang Maier, and ridiculous by American racer Ted Ligety.
Austria team director Hans Pum defended its right to set any course within the rules.
"I can understand it a bit," said Hirscher, of the anger also expressed by the France team. "The course setter will always try to set for his athlete."
Less challenging run
Still, Hirscher fully earned his third slalom victory this season on a less challenging second-run course set by the Sweden team.
Neureuther stood hunched resting on his ski poles in the finish area to watch Hirscher race for the title.
They were locked on the same time at the final check point, but Neureuther had lost speed through the last six gates and Hirscher's smoother run carried him to a clear winning margin.
The new champion first greeted Matt, who beat him to the Olympic title last month, before going to console Neureuther.
"It's fine," between us, Neureuther said, "because Marcel wasn't setting the first run today."
On Saturday, Neureuther had denied Hirscher the season-long giant slalom title by the minimum 0.01 margin.
Then, the German's third-place finish as the final racer knocked the Austrian down to fourth and into a points tie with Ligety. The American got that title on a tiebreaker — 5-2 on race wins — over Hirscher.
Germany's Maier earlier revealed that Austria considered a formal protest Saturday against Neureuther's skis. Had he been disqualified, Hirscher would have taken Ligety's title.
"When they win everything, everything is fine," Maier said, describing the Austria team as "the most unfair nation. Always they are finding something to show not really good sportsmanship."