Luitz holds slim lead over Hirscher after 1st GS run
BEAVER CREEK, Colo. (AP) — Austrian standout Marcel Hirscher had two moments where he was teetering on the brink of going right off the course. He recovered but it cost him precious time.
Even the best can’t afford those kinds of moments.
Not with Stefan Luitz of Germany feeling so confident again on a surgically repaired knee and with his skis perfectly tuned for this snow by his father.
Luitz used a powerful finish to capture a World Cup giant slalom Sunday, ending Hirscher’s five-race winning streak in the discipline.
The 26-year-old Luitz finished in a combined time of 2 minutes, 36.38 seconds as he edged Hirscher by 0.14 seconds to break Hirscher’s streak that dates to last season. Thomas Tumler of Switzerland was third for his first World Cup podium.
The last racer of the day, Luitz made up ground near the bottom. Luitz dropped to the snow in exuberance after seeing his name at the top. Understandable considering Hirscher, a seven-time overall World Cup winner, had won nine of the last 10 GS races on the circuit entering the day.
“Marcel is the best skier in the world for the last seven, eight years,” said Luitz, who picked up his first World Cup win. “It’s unbelievable to be faster in those runs than Marcel.”
This was the first men’s giant slalom of the season after the opener in Soelden, Austria, was postponed in October due to weather.
For going so fast, Luitz thanked his dad, who doubles as his ski technician. Luitz was able to take risks late in the race because he was feeling confident on the snow and trusted his surgically repaired knee. Luitz was on the podium twice last season before tearing a ligament in his left knee.
“I’m feeling really, really good,” Luitz said. “To come back after this injury and win the first race of the season, it’s unbelievable.”
Luitz had an infamous moment at the 2014 Sochi Games. He tripped over the very last gate in the Olympic giant slalom during the first run, tumbling across the finish line as one of his skis flew off. He would’ve been a strong medal contender had he finished, but was disqualified for straddling that final gate. The gold medal was captured by Ted Ligety.
To earn a win, risks are simply part of the territory.
“When you try to win a race, you have to push so hard,” Luitz said. “Even more when Marcel is starting in front of you. … I tried the bottom part to ski as clean as possible.”
By taking second, Hirscher has made the top-three in 16 straight World Cup GS events. This was also his ninth World Cup podium at Beaver Creek.
Although he turned in a solid run, he knew those mistakes would cost him. Especially the one near the end.
“Have you seen the last part? I sprayed a little bit,” said Hirscher. “This little bit of spray was too much. … Stefan went perfectly on the edge. He made it better.”
Tumler had quite an afternoon, moving from No. 48 to 21st in the first run and then leading for a good portion of the final run. He was hoping for a top-15 finish and got a whole lot more.
“I can’t describe my feelings,” Tumler said. “Just amazing to be on the podium with Marcel.”
Tumler recently trained a day with Hirscher. He inspired Tumler.
So did rooming with Swiss teammate Mauro Caviezel, who took second in both the downhill and super-G races over the weekend.
Ligety of Park City, Utah, tied for eighth place. He was one of four Americans making the final run, with Tommy Ford taking 15th, Brian McLaughlin 18th and Ryan Cochran-Siegle 22nd.
“It was awesome. I’m really close with this group of guys and it’s been fun incorporating Ryan into our group,” Ligety said. “It’s awesome to see him stepping up on a race day.”