Zagreb, Croatia (AP) — Marcel Hirscher won a slalom on Thursday to match Italian great Alberto Tomba’s tally of 50 men’s World Cup wins.
On the women’s circuit, only Lindsey Vonn (78), Annemarie Moser-Proell (62) and Vreni Schneider (55) have passed the 50-win milestone.
“I haven’t been following Alberto’s career very closely. For me the ‘Sandmann’ was more interesting back then,” Hirscher quipped, referring to a character from a German-language children’s TV program in the 1990s.
Tomba, who also won Olympic gold in slalom and twice in GS, won his last race shortly before retiring in March 1998, while Hirscher turned nine that month.
“I am very proud of this, definitely, but I am very thankful on the other side for being healthy all the time,” the Austrian said. Hirscher quickly recovered from fracturing his left ankle in preseason training in August and didn’t have to sit out a race because of the injury.
He would have missed the season-opening giant slalom in October but that race was canceled due to bad weather.
Watched by 11,000 spectators under floodlights on Thursday, Hirscher beat his Austrian teammate and first-run leader, Michael Matt, by 0.05 seconds. Henrik Kristoffersen of Norway was 0.11 behind in third, with another Austrian, Manuel Feller, trailing by 0.79 in fourth.
“Zagreb is a unique race,” said Hirscher after his fourth win here. “Standing in the finish area, seeing all the lights from the city, they are shining really bright up to the hill. It is something really special.”
With his third slalom win and fifth overall this season, Hirscher stretched his lead in the overall standings to 94 points over second-place Kristoffersen.
The Norwegian got his seventh podium but is still awaiting his first win of the season. He led the race with only Hirscher and Matt still to come, and lost his temper and kicked a chair in the finish area as soon as Hirscher edged his time.
“When I am disappointed, I am not afraid of (showing) it. I am really disappointed with doing the mistake on the flat that makes it a third place instead of a win,” said Kristoffersen, the Olympic slalom bronze medalist from 2014.
“I skied so good at the top and so good at the bottom, so this mistake is what makes me angry. I think, as an athlete, you are allowed to be angry, and then you let it go.”
The result gave Hirscher his 114th World Cup podium, equaling the Austrian record set by Moser-Proell. Only Stenmark (155) and Vonn (131) have finished more times in the top three of a World Cup event.
Matt, the younger brother of 2014 Olympic slalom champion Mario Matt, posted the fastest time and led Hirscher by 0.21 after the opening run.
Chasing his second career win, Matt was the last starter in the final run and initially extended his lead over Hirscher to 0.60 seconds, but his advantage was only 0.17 at the final split time and he lost over two tenths in the finish section.
“The top section was really good, but the middle section wasn’t that good so I lost lots of time there. The last five, six gates I didn’t push enough,” said Matt, who also finished runner-up in a city event in Oslo last Monday.
The men’s World Cup moves to Switzerland this weekend for a GS and another slalom in Adelboden.