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With his near-perfect performance in the slalom in Saalbach, Austria on Thursday, Marcel Hirscher surpassed Austria’s Annemarie Moser-Pröll on the all-time FIS World Cup wins list. With 63 gold medals, Hirscher is the winningest Austrian ski racer of all-time, and now only trails American Lindsey Vonn (82 wins) and Swede Ingemar Steinmark (86 wins) for the most World Cup victories.
The win in Saalbach did not come easily, however, as the course gave a number of racers trouble throughout the day. Thirty-two athletes, including the four Americans entered in the race, did not complete their first run.
Germany’s Felix Neureuther, who had not started a FIS World Cup race in nearly 14 months, qualified fourth after his first run, but was bucked hard by a deep groove mid-run on his second time down the course. He held on and finished, but was over four seconds off the winning time.
After finishing in second place on Wednesday in the giant slalom, 22-year-old Loic Meillard of Switzerland again found himself in the leaders’ chair after completing his second run in the slalom. He watched nervously as Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen took the course with intervals that flirted with green and red throughout. In the end, the Norwegian would finish a mere 0.09 seconds behind Meillard, which would be good enough for third place after the last run of the day.
That last run? That was Hirscher, methodical throughout the course and apparently unaffected by the deep grooves around each gate that gave so many other racers trouble. He finished 0.38 seconds ahead of Meillard for his 63rd FIS World Cup win. See full Saalbach slalom results.
Kranjec Wins Saalbach GS
In what can only be considered a wild day for giant slalom, the men took on the Saalbach GS on Wednesday. The athletes went all out on the course, which led to a number of massive mistakes throughout the day. No mistake was more apparent than when favorite Marcel Hirscher ended up fully on his backside in the middle of his second run. He would finish sixth overall.
The story of the day belonged to Slovenian Zan Kranjec. Going into the second run in fourth place, Kranjec kept his wits about him to stay on both feet for the duration of the run, edging out France’s Mathieu Faivre for the lead. Kranjec was threatened by underdog Meillard, but a minuscule error by the Swissman kept Kranjec in the lead.
The course yet again proved to be unyielding to the best skiers in the world, as the number one qualifier from run one, Matts Olsson of Sweden, completely missed a gate before even arriving at the middle of the course.
Americans Tommy Ford (Bend, Ore.) and Ted Ligety (Park City, Utah) finished 2.62 and 2.88 seconds behind Kranjec, which was good enough for 14th and 15th place, respectively. None of the other Americans entered in the race qualified for a second run; Ryan Cochran-Siegle (Starksboro, Vt.) had a first run crash that demonstrated just how difficult the course was in Saalbach. See full Saalbach GS results.