Hirscher aims for slalom race victory in Aspen to go with title
Marcel Hirscher served notice Saturday that he isn’t in Aspen just to collect hardware.
Hirscher had the giant slalom title wrapped up before setting foot in Aspen, but he still rallied to win the final GS race of the season. He will try to duplicate the feat today in the slalom. He has an insurmountable lead of 110 points over Henrik Kristoffersen of Norway. The winner of a race can earn a maximum 100 points.
The first run of the men’s slalom is at 10 a.m. at Aspen Mountain.
Hirscher also has already wrapped up his sixth consecutive overall title — a performance unmatched in World Cup skiing. No man has won that many titles. Only Annemarie Moser-Proll has won six overall titles, but just five of hers were in consecutive years (1971-75).
After his giant slalom victory, Hirscher was asked about comments made by U.S. racer Bode Miller earlier this week when asked to assess Hirscher’s performance.
“It’s always tough to ask me those questions, because he’s in an unbelievably weak era of World Cup skiing,” Miller said. “I don’t want to take anything away from him, even though that obviously does take something away from him.”
Miller acknowledged that Hirscher is an unbelievable skier, particularly in the technical events. But he criticized Hirscher’s lack of competitiveness in the downhill and super-G.
“You shouldn’t be able to win an overall, in my mind, without skiing at least three events at the highest level. And he’s not doing that,” Miller said. “Really, it should require four events at the highest level, if the sport could support it. But there is no need right now.”
Hirscher shrugged off the criticism.
“We have heard often this kind of word from Bode and, I mean, it’s fun to hear it,” he said. Hirscher noted that he has skied in the same era as Miller, though not when he was at his physical peak. Miller has battled injuries in recent seasons.
Hirscher said it’s nothing new for skiers to dominate the sport at different times. He pointed to Hermann Maier, an Austrian so dominant in the late 1990s and early 2000s that he was nicknamed the “Herminator.” He won four overall titles.
He also cited the strong performances in recent eras by Austrian Stephan Eberharter, American Daron Rahlves and Miller himself.
Hirscher dismissed suggestions he wasn’t forced to work hard for his titles this season. In giant slalom, Alexis Pinturault of France claimed three victories this season.
“If I look back to the beginning of the season, it’s not so easy for me, especially in slalom,” Hirscher said. “Henrik (Kristoffersen of Norway) was pushing me really hard.”
Kristoffersen has won five slaloms to three for Hirscher this season, but Hirscher was more consistent on the podium.
Hirscher was asked if he is considering retirement even though he is just 28. He gave a two-pronged answer.
“At the moment, I’m not tired of ski racing,” he said.
But he also said the expectations heaped on him can be tiring. He acknowledged he has talked to his family and team about the future.
“Hey, come on, the only thing I can do next season is losing, because if I’m finishing second in the overall, it will be a disaster — in Austrian media,” Hirscher said. “So it is hard to manage with this pressure.”
He indicated it will be nice to chill out after another long season.
“Let’s have a break and relax a little bit on a beach and make your mind clear of what is upcoming,” he said.
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