Austria's Marcel Hirscher wins night slalom

By Eric Willemsen

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 24 2012 3:37 p.m. MST

Austria's Marcel Hirscher competes on his way to clock the fastest time during the first run of an alpine ski, men's World Cup slalom, in Schladming. Austria, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012.

Giovanni Auletta, Associated Press

SCHLADMING, Austria — Marcel Hirscher captured a World Cup night slalom before home fans Tuesday, his sixth victory of the season that came amid a simmering dispute over his earlier win in Zagreb.

Hirscher led after the first run and finished in a combined time of 1 minute, 43.01 seconds to beat Stefano Gross of Italy by 0.22 seconds. It was his first victory in Austria.

"This is my most emotional win so far," said the 22-year-old Hirscher, who had never finished among the top three before in Austria.

Ted Ligety of the U.S. was sixth, 0.96 behind. He finished in the top 10 of a slalom for the first time since placing sixth in Zagreb more than a year ago.

"I am definitely happy with how I skied for most of it, especially the upper part," Ligety said after his first run. "I just got a little tired getting to the bottom. But Hirscher is beating everybody down there by a lot."

Austria's Mario Matt was 0.29 behind in third. Overall World Cup champion Ivica Kostelic of Croatia finished fourth, 0.30 behind Hirscher, and remained first in the slalom and overall standings. Hirscher is second in the overall standings.

Hirscher said he was happy he and Kostelic shook hands on the eve of the race to settle a dispute over the Austrian's victory this month in the Zagreb slalom after apparently straddling a gate.

Kostelic had been angry at an apparently illegitimate victory. The rule breach, which should have led to an automatic disqualification, was brought to light this past weekend. The results will not be corrected because the International Ski Federation accepts protests only within 15 minutes of a race ending.

"After we spoke to each other, the issue was over for me," Hirscher said. "I can focus again on what I like to do — ski racing."

The Austrian called it "the most difficult time of my career."

"I am a person who needs to talk and find a solution," Hirscher said. "For me, every problem needs to be solved as soon as possible."

Austrian ski officials feared the dispute could lead to trouble among Austrian and Croatian fans during a race watched by more than 4,000 spectators, including several thousand Croatians. Police told the Austria Press Agency no incidents had been reported.

Kostelic was booed during his opening run and said he "saw a few snowballs" thrown by spectators.

"But it did not put me off," said Kostelic, who was the seventh and final starter of the elite group. "My run was not great, I could have gone faster for sure. The course was not in perfect condition anymore, but my run wouldn't have been good anyway."

Hirscher had failed to finish both previous slaloms — in Wengen and Kitzbuehel. On Tuesday, the International Ski Federation said it fined Hirscher $1,077 both times as the Austrian skied on after clearly straddling a gate.

Gross earned his first career World Cup podium by placing third in a slalom in Adelboden, Switzerland, this month. He was seventh after the opening run and climbed to second after an attacking final leg.

"This is a beautiful moment for me," Gross said.

The men's World Cup resumes this weekend with speed races in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, and will return to Schladming for the World Cup finals in March.

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