Kristoffersen regains slalom dominance by winning night race
SCHLADMING, Austria (AP) — Henrik Kristoffersen won a World Cup night slalom to regain his dominance in the discipline on Tuesday, two days after failing to finish the classic Hahnenkamm race in Kitzbuehel.
The World Cup slalom champion from Norway used a strong finish to his final run to beat five-time overall champion Marcel Hirscher of Austria by a mere 0.09 seconds.
“It feels amazing, for sure,” Kristoffersen said. “Kitzbuehel affected me more than I thought it would. It is difficult to come back when you are the favorite. The last time I skied out (two years ago), nobody expected me to get to the podium the next race.”
Alexander Khoroshilov of Russia, who shared the fastest second-run time with Hirscher, was 0.63 behind in third, making the top three identical to last year’s race. The rest of the field was more than 1.5 seconds off the lead.
In a similar scenario to last week’s slalom in Wengen, Kristoffersen initially lost his 0.52-second lead over Hirscher from the opening run.
“I didn’t find my rhythm,” Kristoffersen said.
He was 0.14 behind at the final split but accelerated to win more than two tenths on his Austrian rival and take his fifth win of the season, and 15th overall. Kristoffersen won his first race here three years ago, a few weeks before earning bronze at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
“As I heard the fans screaming, I thought I was behind Marcel so I had to attack,” Kristoffersen said. “The bottom part was really strong.”
Kristoffersen is only the third skier to have won at least five slaloms in two consecutive seasons, after Swedish standout Ingemar Stenmark in the 1970s and Marc Girardelli of Luxembourg in the 1980s.
Kristoffersen (12) and Hirscher (5) have won 17 of the last 20 slaloms. As he sat out the first slalom of the season over a sponsorship dispute with the Norwegian ski federation and scored zero points in Kitzbuehel, Kristoffersen still trails Hirscher by 60 points in the discipline standings.
In the overall standings, Hirscher and Kristoffersen are also 1-2, with the Austrian holding a 368-point lead.
“The second run was like a hurricane,” Hirscher said. “I was too cowardly in the last 15 gates. Henrik deserved this win 100 percent. He skied smart, smooth and technically amazing. He was superior.”
Alexis Pinturault of France, who is third in the overall standings, finished more than two seconds off the lead in eighth.
Dave Ryding, who in Kitzbuehel became the first British skier in 35 years to reach a World Cup podium, was fourth after the first run but dropped to 10th.
In front of an estimated crowd of 50,000, both of Ryding’s runs ended with the announcer in the finish area playing the Gerry and the Pacemakers song “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”
“That was just surreal,” said Ryding, who is a Liverpool fan. “My life sort of changed on Sunday. Walking down the street is a lot different now. It’s really cool, you have to embrace it. You dream about this when you’re a kid.”
The race is the last slalom before next month’s world championships, though a city event in Stockholm next week also counts toward the slalom standings.