Kristoffersen wins men’s giant slalom at World Cup finals

MERIBEL, France (AP) Norwegian racer Henrik Kristoffersen won the men’s giant slalom race at the season-ending World Cup finals in convincing style Saturday, while Marcel Hirscher took a big step toward a record fourth straight overall title after placing fourth.

Kristoffersen led Germany’s Fritz Dopfer by 0.08 seconds after the first run and dominated the second to finish 0.79 ahead of him and 0.97 clear of Frenchman Thomas Fanara, who was fourth in the morning.

”In the second run (the pressure) was unbelievable. After each athlete had gone, my knees were shaking more and more,” Hirscher said. ”I was getting so nervous I thought, `Should I laugh, or should I cry?’ It was a crazy moment, because I was worried if I would ski out.”

The 26-year-old Hirscher, who was sixth after the first run, is contesting the World Cup title with Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud, who placed 11th. The Austrian is tied with Swedish great Ingemar Stenmark, American Phil Mahre and Italian Gustav Thoni in winning it three straight times. Thoni won it four times overall.

Hirscher’s countryman Hermann Maier also won it four times while Luxembourg’s Marc Girardelli holds the record with five, but they were not consecutive wins.

”It was easier in 2012 because I was so crazy and stupid I never thought I would win this globe,” said Hirscher, who beat Switzerland’s Beat Feuz by 25 points that season. ”It is not over yet,” he said, adding he was waiting ”to see if Kjetil is starting tomorrow’s (slalom) race.”

Jansrud won the downhill and super-G titles this season, but has never made the podium in a slalom race, with a best finish of fourth place nearly 10 years ago.

Hirscher had already sealed the GS title – more than 200 points clear of Frenchman Alexis Pinturault – and is 60 points ahead of Jansrud overall.

He only has an outside chance of clinching a third straight slalom title on Sunday, however, because he trails Germany’s Felix Neureuther by 55 points.

The remarkably consistent Hirscher is guaranteed to finish in the top three positions in GS and slalom for the fourth straight season.

But he should expect to face fierce competition from Kristoffersen from now on.

It was the 20-year-old Kristoffersen’s second win of the season, following the rising star’s win in slalom last weekend at the Slovenian resort of Kranjska Gora, the fourth of his young career and 11th podium finish.

”I felt in control the whole day. It was fun to ski, it felt good all the way so I could just push it,” said Kristoffersen, who now turns his focus to the Norwegian national championships. ”There’s no time for breaks in this game.”

He said he is not ready yet for super-G events.

”I think I need to gain a few kilos before I can look at speed skiing,” Kristoffersen said. ”For the moment I’m going to stick to slalom and GS.”

Hirscher put pressure on the front-runners as he overtook Frenchman Victor Muffat-Jeandet’s time to take the lead.

Next up was Ted Ligety, who has won the GS crystal globe five times.

Ligety led Hirscher on the first three time splits before losing time at the bottom and finishing sixth – 1.33 behind.

The 30-year-old American placed third in the GS standings this season – his eighth straight top-three finish.