Hirscher and Americans on super-G podium
Birds of prey 2015
Giant slalom, 9:45 a.m. and 12:45 p.m.
BEAVER CREEK — It’s a regular occurrence to see Austrian Marcel Hirscher on the top step of the podium in giant slalom and slalom events — it’s a rarer sight to see him win a super-G race, but he did just that at Saturday’s Birds of Prey World Cup.
The result was Hirscher’s first World Cup super-G win, and he won it on a snowy day on a turn-filled course best suited to technical skiers. Hirscher, running fourth, finished with a time of 1 minute, 6.90 seconds, and that time held up as favorites like Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal and Kjetil Jansrud and Austria’s Hannes Reichelt, the defending Birds of Prey super-G champion, struggled against the elements.
“No one was expecting that I was going to be on the podium today, and certainly not the super-G winner,” said Hirscher. “I was lucky with bib No. 4, but you have to pick your chances up and go for it.”
Two Americans on top
Saturday was also a milestone day for the U.S. Ski Team, with Americans Ted Ligety and Andrew Weibrecht in second and third place, respectively. Ligety finished 3-tenths of a second behind Hirscher with a time of 1:07:23, and Weibrecht came in at 1:07:26.
It was Ligety’s 12th World Cup podium at Beaver Creek and only his second World Cup super-G podium. He took silver at the Val d’Isere, France, super-G on Dec. 12, 2009.
The weather played to Ligety’s favor — he started in the 29th position as the snow abated and the sun came out — but so did the nature of the course, he said.
“I think this is the really only good super-G course in the world. The rest are glorified cat tracks. It’s so much fun to race here and it’s always my favorite,” he said.
Weibrecht, after a fifth-place performance at Friday’s downhill, earned his first ever World Cup podium on Saturday.
“It’s such a monkey off my back,” he said of the podium finish. “I get the question all the time: ‘You have two Olympic medals and no World Cup podiums. Why is that?’ I’m sick of fielding that question. Now it’s done.”
Earning that podium at Beaver Creek is especially significant, he said, and not only because it is in front of a home crowd.
“To have the first podium here in Beaver Creek is unbelievable. This is where I got my first World Cup points, my first top 10 was here and now my first World Cup podium is here, so it’s special,” he said.
Snow was flying and Weibrecht ran loose and wild down the course, steadily shaving down time as he descended. It was something that some of the top-seeded racers were unable to do later in the day.
Ligety commented that he enjoyed sharing the podium with a teammate.
“It’s always cool when you have another teammate up there with you. I like to joke he’s the fastest guy in all four events for 20 seconds. It’s never a surprise to see him on the podium. It’s more a surprise it hasn’t happened more often,” Ligety said.
Hirscher finding speed?
Hirscher is not normally known as a competitor in speed events. The giant-slalom and slalom specialist’s only podium, a third-place finish, in the super-G came on March 15, 2012, on home snow in Schladming. Saturday’s win is a major step toward his bid for a fifth consecutive overall World Cup title.
Other racers, however, were less surprised to see Hirscher up on top of the scoreboard. Some pointed out that the race was run on an abbreviated course due to snow, making it flatter and better suited to his technical abilities.
“I guess he gets the advantage of running early a little bit,” said Norway’s Jansrud, who was favored coming into the super-G. “But mostly it’s because he’s a good skier and he deserves it.”
Both Ligety and Hirscher then turned their focus toward today’s giant slalom race, in which they are both heavy favorites.
“I’m ready, and hopefully me and Ted are in a position to have a big battle,” said Hirscher. “There’s a number of other guys who want to play with us, but I think and hope it will end up being as usual.”
Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 or at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @mwongvail.