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Marcel Hirscher rallies to giant slalom win in Aspen

March 18, 2017
Austria's Marcel Hirscher reacts after finishing the first run of a men's World Cup giant slalom ski race Saturday, March 18, 2017, in Aspen, Colo. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
Austria's Marcel Hirscher reacts after finishing the first run of a men's World Cup giant slalom ski race Saturday, March 18, 2017, in Aspen, Colo. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

ASPEN, Colo. (AP) — The other day, Marcel Hirscher sat on a terrace and enjoyed a cheeseburger in peace.

That rarely happens back home in ski-crazed Austria.

Hirscher certainly didn’t go unnoticed Saturday as he rallied to a giant slalom victory at the World Cup Finals.

There was no pressure since the 28-year-old Hirscher had already clinched the season-long giant slalom title along with his sixth straight overall crown.

Soon enough, Hirscher will contemplate a tough decision — how much longer does he really want to race?

“The only thing I can do next season is (lose),” Hirscher said. “Because if I’m finishing second in the overall, it will be a disaster — in the Austrian media. It is hard to manage with this pressure.”

Hirscher powered through the shorter-than-usual course in a combined time of 1 minute, 49.79 seconds. First-run leader Felix Neureuther of Germany was second, 0.53 seconds behind. Mathieu Faivre of France took third.

It was Hirscher’s fourth World Cup win in GS this season. He and Alexis Pinturault of France have won seven of eight GS races this season. The only other racer to win in the discipline was Faivre in December at Val d’Isere, France. Faivre’s teammate, Cyprien Sarrazin, also captured a parallel giant slalom.

Pinturault had a fast second run going before hitting his left hip on the snow and skiing off course — his third “did not finish” this season in GS.

“Protecting the globe from Alexis this season means a lot because, especially at the beginning of the season, he was unbelievably fast,” Hirscher said. “I proved myself pretty good during the season.”

Another dominating season for Hirscher, who scores a bulk of his World Cup points in slalom and giant slalom.

Although two-time overall champion Bode Miller applauds Hirscher’s exploits, he doesn’t believe Hirscher would’ve been as dominant in the overall race during his day and age.

“His accomplishments, I don’t mean to downplay his accomplishments,” the 39-year-old Miller recently said as he remains on the fence about whether he will return to racing next season. “They’re unbelievable and will hold up well for a long time, in terms of the record books. As an insider, for me, it’s not as impressive as it is on paper.”

Hirscher shrugged it off.

“It’s fun to hear it, because I’m still waiting that he is competing,” Hirscher said. “Anyway, I skied in his era, but he was not able to be in this shape that I’ve seen him at his best.

“I don’t care about it. Every era has its top favorites.”

Hirscher’s looking forward to getting away from skiing for a little bit. Not quite yet, of course, with a slalom race Sunday to finish the World Cup season.

“I’m a natural racer. I want to compete and it’s not hard to motivate myself,” Hirscher said. “If you’re a racer, you are a racer. I’m not here to make a vacation. The best vacation is to win races.”

Soon, he will escape to an island for a few weeks, just to read a book, watch a movie and really do nothing. It’s a well-earned break after another sensational season.

“Marcel is one of the best mental athletes out there, in any sport really,” said American rival Ted Ligety, who missed the finals as he recovered from back surgery. “I think ski racing is one of the toughest mental sports out there. It’s so unforgiving, one little mistake and you’re out.

“But he’s able to get on the podium every single race, every single weekend. ... Even when he’s not in his top form for him, he still ends up pulling off wins.”

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