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Kostelic wins race, but Hirscher wins overall slalom title

Published: Sunday, March 10 2013 11:31 p.m. MDT

From left, Austria's Marcel Hirscher, second placed, Croatia's Ivica Kostelic, the winner, and Austria's Mario Matt, third placed, celebrate on podium after winning an alpine ski, men's World Cup slalom, in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, Sunday, March 10, 2013.  (Alessandro Trovati, Associated Press) From left, Austria's Marcel Hirscher, second placed, Croatia's Ivica Kostelic, the winner, and Austria's Mario Matt, third placed, celebrate on podium after winning an alpine ski, men's World Cup slalom, in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, Sunday, March 10, 2013. (Alessandro Trovati, Associated Press)

KRANJSKA GORA, Slovenia — Ivica Kostelic of Croatia won a rain-drenched World Cup slalom Sunday while Marcel Hirscher of Austria clinched the season title in the event after his sole rival skied out in the opening run.

Kostelic mastered the difficult conditions on the Podkoren course to finish in a total time of 1 minute, 45.81 seconds. Hirscher was 0.19 behind in second and fellow Austrian Mario Matt came in third, 0.34 behind Kostelic.

Hirscher led Felix Neureuther by 184 points going into the race. The German was left with no chance to make up the deficit when he straddled a gate in the opening run.

"I am totally relieved," said Hirscher, who won the giant slalom globe last season on his way to winning the overall title. "To win the slalom globe means a lot to me. I am more relaxed now. The small globe is important as I hadn't won this one before."

Mikaela Shiffrin, of the U.S. celebrates after taking third place in a women's World Cup slalom in Ofterschwang, Germany, Sunday, March 10, 2013.  (Associated Press) Mikaela Shiffrin, of the U.S. celebrates after taking third place in a women's World Cup slalom in Ofterschwang, Germany, Sunday, March 10, 2013. (Associated Press)

The Austrian turned 24 last week and is the youngest man to win the slalom globe since Kostelic in 2002. He is the seventh Austrian to win the title, more than any other country.

Hirscher has finished in the top three of all World Cup slaloms this season, making him the first man with eight straight slalom podiums since Italian great Alberto Tomba in 1991-92. Hirscher also placed second and first respectively in the two city events in Munich and Moscow, which counted for the slalom standings.

The Austrian leads Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal, who skipped the race, by 149 points in the overall standings with four events remaining at the World Cup finals in Lenzerheide, Switzerland.

Ted Ligety, who won his fourth giant slalom title Saturday, finished 2.80 off the lead in 18th. In his first run, the American had a costly mistake that almost threw him off course at the fifth gate. He recovered to stay in the race but came in 3.87 behind.

"Miserable day for ski racing," Ligety wrote on Twitter, where he posted a photo of the spectators sheltering under umbrellas.

"It's been a tough day," Ligety said. "I didn't ski very well and these are really bad conditions."

Ligety earned 13 World Cup points to retain his third place in the overall standings, holding a 74-point lead over fourth-place Neureuther.

The slalom is the last event before next week's World Cup finals in Lenzerheide, Switzerland.

WOMEN'S SLALOM: At Ofterschwang, Germany, overall champion Tina Maze of Slovenia beat Mikaela Shiffrin in a World Cup slalom Sunday to overtake the American teenager in the discipline standings and close in on becoming the first woman to win five crystal globes in a season.

Maze also got a piece of another record in a season where she has already broken several, equaling Austrian great Hermann Maier's mark of 22 World Cup podiums in 1999-2000. The Slovenian earlier broke Maier's record for points in a season, and she extended her total to 2,254 with her 10th win.

Maze finished her two runs on the Ofterschwanger Horn course in 1 minute, 52.85 seconds to beat Wendy Holdener of Switzerland by 0.25 seconds.

More importantly, though, she beat the 17-year-old Shiffrin after trailing the American world champion by one tenth of a second on the first run. Shiffrin couldn't protect her lead and finished 0.75 behind in third place, giving Maze a seven-point lead in the slalom standings going into Saturday's last race of the season.

CROSS COUNTRY: At Lahti, Finland, Petter Northug of Norway dominated a men's 15-kilometer classical race Sunday to gain ground in the overall cross-country World Cup standings, while Justyna Kowalczyk all but sealed the women's season title with another victory.

Northug led from the start to win in 34 minutes, 35.6 seconds. Alexey Poltoranin of Kazakhstan was second, 31.7 seconds behind, while Martin Johnsrud Sundby of Norway was 35.1 back in third.

The victory puts Northug 123 points behind overall leader Dario Cologna of Switzerland with six races to go. Cologna skipped Sunday's race.

Kowalczyk is virtually assured of winning her fourth overall title after extending her advantage to 581 points over second-place Therese Johaug of Norway.

SKI JUMPING: At Lahti, Finland, Richard Freitag of Germany won a large hill event in World Cup ski jumping Sunday while Gregor Schlierenzauer of Austria failed to clinch the overall title after finishing 15th.

This was Freitag's third career victory. He led after the first round and went 128.5 meters with the day's longest jump in the second and won with 274.2 points.

Anders Bardal finished second with 266.9 to keep the race for the overall title alive. Fellow Norwegian Anders Jacobsen and Germany's Richard Freund tied for third with 265.8.

FREESTYLE: At Voss, Norway, Jean Frederic Chapuis of France won the ski cross title for his first major victory Sunday, beating countryman Bastien Midol in the final at the freestyle world championships.

John Teller of the United States took the bronze. The fourth finalist, Jouni Pellinen of Finland, fell and failed to finish.

Chapuis has never won a World Cup event. His best finish was third place in Germany last year.

In the women's race, 20-year-old Fanny Smith of Switzerland beat World Cup champion Marielle Thompson of Canada. Ophelie David of France won the bronze medal.

SNOWBOARD: At Arosa, Switzerland, Rok Marguc of Slovenia and Hilde-Katrine Engeli of Norway earned their first career snowboard World Cup victories Sunday by winning parallel giant slalom events.

Marguc beat Matthew Morison of Canada in the men's final to follow up on the world championship gold he won in the parallel slalom in January. He had three previous World Cup podium finishes — the last one coming two years ago in Moscow.

In the women's race, Engeli beat Patrizia Kummer of Switzerland in the final.

SPEEDSKATING: At Heerenveen, Netherlands, Olympic champion Lee Sang-hwa of South Korea won the women's 500 meters Sunday at the speedskating World Cup to take the season discipline title.

Lee won in 37.77 seconds at the Thialf oval, beating Wang Beixing of China by one hundredth of a second. Thijsje Oenema of the Netherlands was third.

Wang ended the season third in the standings behind Jenny Wolf of Germany, who finished fourth Sunday.

Jan Smeekens, who won the 500 title Friday, underscored his dominance by winning his sixth straight race of the season in the distance, posting a time of 34.83 seconds.

Joji Kato of Japan was second and Smeekens' Netherlands teammate, Michel Mulder, was third.

Ireen Wust followed her blisteringly fast 3,000-meter victory Saturday with another win in the 1,500. Wust missed the first three 1,500 races of the World Cup season and ended third in the standings.

Marrit Leenstra of the Netherlands finished a disappointing eighth Sunday, but it was enough to ensure she won the overall season title.

Bart Swings, the Belgian former inline skater who has been one of the surprises of the speedskating season, won the men's 1,500. Zbigniew Brodka was second to top the season-ending World Cup standings.

BIATHLON: At Sochi, Russia, Dmitry Malyshko and Evgeny Ustyugov anchored the Russian team to a comeback win in the men's 4x7.5-kilometer relay at a biathlon World Cup meet Sunday.

Russia overcame one penalty loop and six missed targets to win in 1 hour, 9 minutes, 50.8 seconds — 38.3 seconds ahead of second-place Germany. The Czech Republic was third, its first podium this season.

World champion Norway, which was leading the discipline standings coming into the race, missed eight times and ran two penalty loops to finish fourth.

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