Fenninger wins 2nd straight WCup title; Hirscher his 4th
The Associated Press
MERIBEL, France — Anna Fenninger overcame her nerves and a strong challenge from Tina Maze to clinch her second straight World Cup title in style Sunday, joining Marcel Hirscher on the winners’ podium as he celebrated a record fourth straight men’s title.
Both won their races, with Hirscher winning the men’s slalom to capture his third straight globe in that discipline, and Fenninger making it a great day for the Austrians as she held off Maze to win the women’s giant slalom, also defending that title in the process.
Hirscher’s fourth World Cup globe put him level overall with the likes of fellow Austrian Hermann Maier, Gustav Thoeni of Italy and Pirmin Zurbriggen of Switzerland, but the Austrian is the first man to win four in a row. Marc Girardelli, an Austrian who competed for Luxembourg, is the only man with five overall titles. On the women’s side, Austrian great Annemarie Moser-Proell won five in a row in the early 1970s.
“It is so hard to find the words right now. But it means so much for me,” Hirscher said. “What is definitely one of the greatest things is to have the record (of four straight), which I don’t have to split with someone.”
Hirscher had clinched his title before Sunday’s race even began as closest rival Kjetil Jansrud decided to skip it — the burly Norwegian is not a specialist in technical events — but Fenninger had it all to do as she trailed Maze by 18 points.
The showdown pitted GS world champion Fenninger against Olympic champion Maze — the World Cup winner the season before Fenninger — and did not disappoint.
Fenninger led Maze after the first run and, despite struggling to focus, hammered down the second to finish 0.38 seconds ahead of countrywoman Eva-Maria Brem — her only rival for the GS title — and 0.46 clear of Maze.
“I was really nervous at the start. Then I tried to do what I love. I was always thinking about that: ‘You love it and you have to do it,’” the 25-year-old Fenninger said. “I’m happy that I can live my dream.”
That was her speaking about three hours after her victory.
In the moments before her last race of a fantastic season, which saw her win GS and super-G gold and silver in downhill at last month’s world championships, she was gripped by fear, just dreading a Maze comeback.
“It’s hard to describe. I felt a lot of pressure,” Fenninger said. “Not only today but the last weeks, the last months, the last days, there was so much pressure from Tina but also from myself, from outside.”
The 31-year-old Maze, who is approaching the end of her career, gave Fenninger the gift of a necklace after the race.
“I think we’re both winners,” Fenninger said. “Tina is very strong and she always comes back when it’s a tough race.”
Fenninger finished 22 points ahead of Maze overall, while four-time champion Lindsey Vonn placed third having captured the downhill and super-G trophies in a stunning comeback season following two career-threatening knee injuries.
Vonn placed fifth on Sunday.
“It was a good day and a good way to end the season,” Vonn said.
American Mikaela Shiffrin, who sealed the slalom title on Saturday for the third straight season, finished third in the GS standings; Maze was fifth in GS and third in slalom.
Earlier, Hirscher won his eighth race of the season, his third in slalom.
He could relax, with no threat to his title from Jansrud, who was 60 points adrift and needed to place first or second to keep his mathematical chance alive — a highly unlikely feat as he does not have a top-10 result in slalom in more than nine years.
“Kjetil is one of the fairest sportsmen I have met,” the 26-year-old Hirscher said. “The tactic was very simple today. To attack full gas. Not thinking about standings or positions.”
Third after the first run, Hirscher powered down the Roc de Fer course to beat Italian Giuliano Razzoli by 0.83 seconds and Russian Alexander Khoroshilov by 1.09.
Hirscher finished the season with 1,448 points, with Jansrud scoring 1,288 and Frenchman Alexis Pinturault third overall.
Jansrud won the downhill and super-G titles.
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