Hirscher beats Britain’s Ryding to win World Cup slalom
KITZBUEHEL, Austria (AP) — Only five-time overall champion Marcel Hirscher prevented Dave Ryding from becoming the first British skier to win a World Cup race on Sunday.
The Austrian used a stunning second run to win the slalom of the classic Hahnenkamm races, while Ryding matched the best World Cup result by a British skier, set by Konrad Bartelski, who finished runner-up in a downhill in Val Gardena, Italy, in December 1981.
“It’s just a dream. I was nervous, I just told myself, ‘Do what you have to do’,” said Ryding, who is from Bretherton, a small village in Lancashire, England. “It definitely felt like a win, something I will remember for the rest of my life.”
Leading a race after the opening run for the first time in his career, Ryding avoided major mistakes but lost several tenths of his 1.09-second lead over Hirscher at every split in his final run. Hirscher was in ninth place after the opening run but finished the race 0.76 ahead to claim his 20th career slalom win, and 42nd overall.
Alexander Khoroshilov of Russia, who regularly trains together with Ryding in Austria, was 1.11 back in third.
“I have to say hats off to Hirscher, he was untouchable,” Ryding said about the Austrian, who stretched his overall lead and went top of the discipline standings again, overtaking slalom World Cup champion Henrik Kristoffersen.
The Norwegian had skied out in the opening run, failing to finish a slalom run for the first time in more than two years. In that stretch, Kristoffersen won 11 of the 21 races.
This season, at age 30, Ryding is enjoying his breakthrough on the World Cup, four years after winning the slalom title of the lower-tier Europa Cup circuit.
He earned his maiden top-10 result by placing sixth in the first slalom of the season in Levi, Finland, in November, and followed up by coming seventh in Zagreb, Croatia, in the first race of 2017.
“If the season stopped now, I would be over the moon. I just keep trying, that’s all I can do,” said Ryding, who is nicknamed “The Rocket.”
Ryding is travelling the circuit with his partly self-funded team, consisting of head coach Tristan Glasse-Davies and Ali Morton, who is his ski technician. He usually trains in an Austrian ski resort, Hinterstoder.
Sunday’s result in a race with one of the highest prize funds earned him 40,000 Swiss francs ($40,000).
“I haven’t checked the prize money yet,” Ryding said. “It has not always been financially rewarding but now it is, obviously. This is my first year really of getting top-10s. I didn’t make a lot of money until now.”
The result left Gordon Cleaver the only British winner in the long-stretching history of the Hahnenkamm races. In 1931, more than three decades before the Alpine skiing World Cup was founded in 1967, Cleaver won a combined event to become the first — and to date only — British winner in the Austrian ski resort.
Ryding’s performance drew praise from Hirscher, who said he was impressed by the British skier’s performance in the opening run.
“That was really great to see,” said the Austrian, a three-time slalom World Cup champion and 2014 Olympic silver medalist. “It’s amazing to have a new name on the podium.”
Hirscher said he went from perplexity — after his disappointing opening run — to euphoria after taking the win.
“I am speechless, I never thought I could make it up,” Hirscher said after his come-from-behind win. “I just went full risk. For the overall title it wouldn’t help me if I finished 20th. It was worth taking the risks.”
Hirscher took full advantage of Kristoffersen’s early exit. The Norwegian was 0.10 off the pace in his opening run when the mishap occurred.
“When your skis cross you have no chance (to react), especially on this icy course,” Kristoffersen said. “It wasn’t a perfect run for sure but I was skiing OK. These are really tough conditions.”
Kristoffersen skipped the season-opening slalom over a sponsorship dispute with the Norwegian ski federation but won four of the next five races.
The men’s World Cup continues in Austria with another slalom in Schladming on Tuesday.