Hirscher wins, Yuasa the pride of Japan
MADONNA DI CAMPIGLIO, Italy (AFP) –
Austria’s defending World Cup overall champion Marcel Hirscher won his second race of the season in dominant fashion as he won the slalom here on Tuesday.
The 23-year-old – who had previously won the giant slalom at Val d’Isere – eased to victory, timing 1min 42.50sec over the two legs to continue his run of seven podium finishes in seven races this season.
He is the first skier to achieve that in the technical events since the great Italian Alberto Tomba in the 1991/92 season.
Germany’s Felix Neureuther finished second 1.67sec adrift
Japanese skier Naoki Yuasa took a surprise third spot, 2.28sec off the pace despite suffering from a painful back – the first skier from Japan to finish in the top three of a World Cup race since another slalom specialist Akira Sasaki was second at the Japanese resort of Shigakogen in 2006.
“I risked everything,” gasped Neureuther, who was winning his 14th career race.
“I would like to congratulate Naoki Yuasa. He is a real battler, it is admirable what he did. But of course, I had to accelerate even more because of that on the second leg.
“I had heard that Felix was the fastest. At the moment everything is going really well.”
Yuasa, 29, said that he had surprised even himself with his performance.
“Nobody could have thought I was going to ski like that,” he said.
“It is unbelievable. I had such a painful back that I don’t even remember the last 17 gates.
“Despite these problems, I didn’t even think for a moment of withdrawing from the second leg. I was 26th at that moment and I still had hopes of moving up the standings. It is my job after all.”
Hirscher had set the fastest time in the first leg, timing 0.06sec quicker than Neureuther while Italian Cristian Deville was third.
Yuasa was one of the early skiers on the second leg – there were still 25 to race after he had finished – but he posted such a competitive time that it forced several racers to take risks with Deville the highest profile casualty, as he crashed out.
While Neureuther eventually denied Yuasa a fairytale victory, his time was not nearly good enough to prevent Hirscher from storming to victory on a piste returning to the World Cup schedule after a seven year hiatus.
Hirscher’s victory sees him reduce Norwegian Aksel Lund Svindal’s lead in the overall World Cup standings to just 54 points – Svindal skipped the race here.
France’s world champion in the discipline Jean-Baptiste Grange returned after a long absence and eventually finished 21st.