As has become a tradition after the Hahnenkamm races, the Men’s Alpine Skiing World Cup continued in Austria with a night slalom in Schladming on Tuesday.
Neureuther Dominates First Run
The first run was started by Felix Neureuther of Germany. Neureuther had a clean run, and that turned out to be too good for the next starter, the slalom World Cup leader Henrik Kristoffersen, to beat. Kristoffersen didn’t make big mistakes in his run, yet lost 1.10 seconds to Neureuther.
That might have looked like a great opportunity for Kristoffersen’s main rival Marcel Hirscher to beat him for the second time in this season’s slalom races. However, Hirscher had a very slow first run, losing 2.59 seconds to Neureuther, eventually enough only for the 22nd place after the first run. After the run, Hirscher said his goggles had fogged up, hurting his visibility.
As the race progressed, it turned out Neureuther really had a good run. The only man to go between him and Kristoffersen was Italy’s Stefano Gross, losing 0.53 seconds to Neureuther.
Winner in Schladming last year, Alexander Khoroshilov of Russia was fourth on the first run, 1.13 seconds from lead. The biggest surprise of the first run was the USA’s David Chodounsky. The 31-year-old American is having the best season of his career; he was 12th in the slalom World Cup standings before Schladming achieved a career-best fourth-place finish in the Val d’Isère slalom. He finished the first run in fifth place, 1.27 seconds from lead.
A notable and rare thing about the first run was that all of the first 30 starters managed to finish their runs. Only three men outside the first 30 starters could break into the top 30, qualifying for the second run; Dominik Stehle (bib No. 39) in 21st place, Matic Skube (bib No. 36) in 26th place, and Naoki Yuasa (bib No. 33) in 27th place.
Hirscher Attacks On Second Run
Marcel Hirscher needed a strong second run to score a decent amount of points in order to keep his dream of the fourth consecutive slalom World Cup title alive, and to not allow his new overall title rival Henrik Kristoffersen to get too close in the standings. Starting with an advantage of 0.18 seconds to the leading countryman Marc Digruber, Hirscher had a great run and claimed the lead by 0.96 seconds.
Dominik Stehle, the latest starter to make the second run, had his run after Hirscher. The German couldn't maintain his lead of 0.04 seconds over Hirscher on the second run but went to second place, 0.50 seconds behind. With the course deteriorating rapidly, both Hirscher and Stehle were able to make big progress on the second run.
The first skier to pose a threat even to Stehle's time was Germany's Fritz Dopfer, seventh place in the first run. He had an advantage of 1.10 seconds to Hirscher, but he couldn't stay ahead and lost by 0.58 seconds, going into third place behind Stehle.
David Chodounsky was the biggest surprise of the first run, placing fifth. He couldn't retain his position but finished the race in 11th place in the final results.
Starting after Chodounsky was last year's winner Alexander Khoroshilov. Despite the advantage of 1.46 seconds, he couldn't stay ahead of Hirscher but lost by 0.16 seconds, pushing Stehle into third place.
After Khoroshilov, it was the slalom standings' leader Henrik Kristoffersen's turn. He couldn't match Hirscher's second run on the deteriorated course, yet starting with an advantage of 1.49 seconds, he claimed the lead from the Austrian crowd's favorite by 0.61 seconds.
Second after the first run, Stefano Gross had an advantage of 0.57 seconds to Kristoffersen. The Italian made too many mistakes and finished the run only in sixth place, 1.24 seconds from Kristoffersen.
The leader of the first run, Felix Neureuther, concluded the race. Starting with an advantage of 1.10 seconds, Neureuther still had 0.61 seconds of the lead remaining at the second split on the second run. Then he straddled a gate, denying his chance for the first win of the season.
Kristoffersen won his sixth race of the season. Climbing 20 positions on the second run into second place, Hirscher achieved his sixth podium finish in slalom this season; one of them being a win, others being second places behind Kristoffersen. Khoroshilov returned to podium after not finishing the previous two slalom races in Wengen and Kitzbühel. Dominik Stehle, who started with the bib No. 39, achieved his career-first top 10 finish, helping him to improve his start position for the future races.
Kristoffersen leads the slalom World Cup by 180 points to Hirscher. Third-placed Khoroshilov is already 446 points from lead.
Marcel Hirscher claimed the overall World Cup lead from Aksel Lund Svindal who suffered a season-ending knee injury in the Kitzbühel downhill. Henrik Kristoffersen is now Hirscher's biggest rival for the overall title, 98 points behind. Kristoffersen has been the better slalom skier this season; however, in giant slalom Hirscher has the advantage plus Hirscher is able to score points in super-G, as well. In fourth place is Kjetil Jansrud, last year's runner-up to Hirscher, already 348 points from lead.
Men's World Cup continues on January 30-31 in Garmisch-Partenkirchen with a downhill and a giant slalom.