KRANJSKA GORA, Slovenia (AP) — Marcel Hirscher locked up the men's World Cup giant slalom title with a race to spare on Saturday, underlining his ongoing dominance of the discipline.
The Olympic GS champion from Austria won the penultimate event of the season for his 56th career victory, giving him an insurmountable 125-point lead in the GS standings over Norwegian rival Henrik Kristoffersen. A win is worth 100 points.
And Hirscher did so in style, posting the fastest times in both runs. He finished in 2 minutes, 20.76 seconds, beating runner-up Kristoffersen by 1.66 seconds. Alexis Pinturault of France was more than 2 ½ seconds off the pace in third.
"I am very happy that it happened today," said the Austrian, adding he wasn't expecting to wrap up the title on Saturday, a day after he turned 29.
"To me this comes as a little bit as a surprise as I haven't been thinking about it. I was just thinking about the race. Normally you would need the calculator only in two weeks' time," he said, referring to the World Cup finals in Are, Sweden.
Hirscher winning the race, however, was everything but a surprise.
The Austrian has won eight of the last 10 World Cup giant slaloms and reached the podium of the other two. The last time he failed to finish in the top three was when he placed fifth at the season-ending GS in St. Moritz, Switzerland, in March 2016.
"Marcel is in his own league," Kristoffersen said. "It's OK at the moment, it's OK that Marcel wins the globe. He is the best racer."
Kristoffersen trailed Hirscher by 0.73 seconds after the opening run. The Norwegian tried to put pressure on his Austrian rival with an all-attacking second run, but a misjudged turn halfway down the course slowed him.
"I had a big mistake in the middle part, really big. And the course is not steep after that so I had no speed. If you have such a mistake, you have no chance against Marcel," the Norwegian said.
It was Hirscher's fourth straight GS title and fifth in total, matching American Ted Ligety's tally. Only Swedish great Ingemar Stenmark won the trophy more times — eight.
Working his way back from knee and back injuries, Ligety hasn't won a race since October 2015. On Saturday, he missed a gate and went out before the first split time of his opening run.
Apart from dominating GS, Hirscher was also expected to also wrap up the slalom title this weekend as he will enter Sunday's race with a 144-point lead over Kristoffersen.
And, more importantly, the Austrian is also on the brink of an unprecedented seventh straight overall championship.
Leading Kristoffersen by 269 points, Hirscher won't be able to officially claim the big crystal globe on Sunday with six races still to go. However, unless Kristoffersen starts competing in other events than slalom and GS, he will be left with just two more chances to score points after the weekend.
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