Hirscher powers to ski slalom victory in Kitzbuhel

Austria's Marcel Hirscher powered to a stunning victory in Sunday's World Cup slalom with a winner-takes-all second run that left the onlooking Arnold Schwarzenegger punching the air in delight.

(L-R) Germany's Felix Neureuther, Austria's Marcel Hirscher and Croatia's Ivica Kostelic on January 27, 2013 Kitzbuehel, Austria. Austria's Marcel Hirscher powered to a stunning victory in the World Cup slalom with a winner-takes-all second run

Current World Cup leader Hirscher, 23, clocked the third fastest time in the first leg behind Italian duo Stefano Gross and Giuliano Razzoli.

But the local hero's second leg effort of 53.51sec gave him a winning total of 1min 44.34sec for a maiden victory on the Hahnenkamm.

He finished 0.77sec ahead of Germany's Felix Neureuther, with Croatian Ivica Kostelic at 0.93sec to complete the podium. Razzoli took fourth and Austrian veteran Benjamin Raich fifth, in his 401st World Cup race.

"I tried my best. It was pretty difficult," Hirscher said. "I knew that if I wanted to win, I definitely had to beat Felix."

It was Hirscher's fourth slalom victory of the season and consolidated his lead atop the overall World Cup standings, on 1,035 points, 114pts ahead of Norwegian speed specialist Aksel Lund Svindal (921).

As he swept across the finish line in front of a raucous crowd of 30,000 flag-waving fans, Hirscher roared with delight, his cries matched by Austrian-born former California governor Schwarznegger from the stands.

Kostelic's third place guaranteed him a record fourth consecutive victory in the men's World Cup combined event, which is judged by the total of the downhill and slalom times.

The 2011 overall World Cup winner has been struggling with his problematic right knee, last operated on in February 2012, forcing him to skip large parts of his training regime.

But the 33-year-old slalom specialist produced the goods on Sunday with a blistering second run to seal the combined event, which will be replaced next season by a super-combined, comprising a shortened downhill and one slalom run.

"The course was a little bit different. We had three very significant rolls, man-made I think with snow, and it was also very icy," Kostelic said, adding that he thought it was a "big mistake" to scrap the classic combined event.

"My stance is that in a year or two I'll be gone from skiing and those who oppose it also.

"The classical combined is already an old man, introduced in 1931, and to destroy this is unbelievable to me.

"You cannot build tradition. It's the oldest discipline.

"You gain nothing from one more hybrid race (the super-combined), but you lose a lot more if the classic combined in Kitzbuehel is destroyed."

The first leg of the slalom had been attritional on a particularly tricky uppper section, with last year's winner Cristian Deville of Italy and reigning world slalom champion Jean-Baptiste Grange of France both bombing out.

Further casualties included Deville's countryman Manfred Moelgg, US star Ted Ligety and 2012 runner-up Mario Matt of Austria.

A disappointed Ligety, who also failed to finish Saturday's prestigious downhill run although he secured a sixth place in Friday's super-G, tweeted: "Kitz weekend started well but went sideways fast. Literally and figuratively."

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Writer: AFP
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