Kranjec gives Slovenian men 1st World Cup win in GS


(Photo: AP)

Zan Kranjec became the first Slovenian skier to win a men’s World Cup giant slalom on Wednesday, less than two hours after countrywoman Ilka Stuhec won a women’s super-G in Italy.

Kranjec was more than a half-second off the lead in fourth after the opening run, but leaders Matts Olsson of Sweden and Manuel Feller of Austria both failed to finish their final runs.

“For sure, it’s a good to know that. I am happy to be the one to achieve it,” said Kranjec, initially unaware of being the first Slovenian winner in the discipline. “I don’t know what happened. The first run was not bad but I knew I could do more. I went to the limit and had a few mistakes.”

The 28-year-old Kranjec’s previous best result was third place in the Alta Badia giant slalom a year ago.

On Wednesday, he posted the 10th fastest time in the final run, but still overtook Loic Meillard of Switzerland, who was third after the opening leg, by 0.19 seconds. Mathieu Faivre of France was 0.50 behind in third.

“It was tough to race, especially in the second run,” Meillard said after earning his maiden top-three finish. “It’s a sign that we have been working hard. This podium means a lot to me.”

Seven-time overall champion Marcel Hirscher finished sixth, ending the Austrian’s streak of 18 consecutive GS races where he finished on the podium. He had won seven of the last eight races in the discipline.

Hirscher was already 0.71 off the lead after the opening run, and also struggled in the second despite changing the set-up of his equipment.

“So many times we have made the right choices, this time we haven’t,” said Hirscher, who lost grip on the course several times and at one point had to avoid skiing out by correcting his line with one hand in the snow.

“It feels like I forgot how to ski in two days,” said Hirscher, who won a GS in Alta Badia by a massive 2.53 seconds on Sunday and a parallel GS the following day for his 62th career victory, equaling the Austrian record set by Annemarie Moser-Proell four decades ago.

“It has hardly been this bitter before,” Hirscher said. “A complete off-day, congrats to all the other guys but from my side, this was very, very poor.”

However, Hirscher was the not only favorite to struggle on the Schneekristall course.

First-run leader Olsson, who was chasing his second career win, led Feller by 0.03 seconds as the pair had opened up a gap of three-tenths over Meillard and at least a half-second over the rest of the field.

But both looked uncomfortable in their final runs. Feller lost his left ski in a turn and slid off the course, while Olsson lost his balance and skied out halfway down the slope.

Henrik Kristoffersen of Norway and Alexis Pinturault of France, two of Hirscher’s main rivals for the overall title, finished seventh and eighth, respectively.

The race replaced the season-opening giant slalom, which was canceled because of bad weather in Soelden in October. A slalom is scheduled for Thursday, a replacement for the event canceled in Val d’Isere, France, 10 days ago.