Whether he says so or not, Austria’s Marcel Hirscher the favorite in Birds of Prey giant slalom
Dos Equis beer’s slogan is, “Keeping it interssante.”
Austria’s Marcel Hirscher’s slogan should be, “Keeping it boring.”
Boring is good. Mind-numbing consistency has added up to an unprecedented seven straight men’s World Cup titles.
Luxembourg’s Marc Girardelli held the previous mark of five overall titles, won over the course of nine years between 1985-1993.
Think of the greats of skiing. Ingemar Stenmark? He won “only” three overall crowns. Hermann Maier? The Herminator has four World Cup championships.
Austria’s Annemarie Moser-Proell holds the women’s mark, also with six, 1971-1975 and 1979.
Again, do a mental roll call.
Lindsey Vonn? Four. Switzerland’s Vreni Schneider? Three. Croatia’s Janica Kostelic? Three.
Hirscher is in a league of his own not only in how he does it, but how he carries himself.
Despite having won seven overall titles, Hirscher really isn’t an overall skier.
He’s a tech specialist. He has 58 World Cup wins — 28 in slalom; 28 in giant slalom — that’s rather consistent — two parallel slaloms and a very surprising win at the 2015 Birds of Prey super-G.
Of his 124 career podiums, 58 are in slalom and 54 in GS.
Where as Bode Miller, Carlo Janka, Aksel Lund Svindal, World Cup champions of years past, won the title by entering all five disciplines and picking up points here and there, Hirscher essentially trains two disciplines, pounding them mercilessly and enters the occasional combined.
During his seven-year run, Hirscher has finished third, first, first, first, second, first and first in the yearly World Cup slalom standings. GS? That would be 1-2-2-1-1-1-1.
At the 2013, 2015 and 2017 FIS World Alpine Ski Championships, he’s racked up nine medals, five golds in all, including winning both the GS and slalom in 2017.
And he got over the hump that was the Olympics last season in South Korea with gold medals in the GS and combined.
About the only thing that can stop him is a drone falling from the sky. One would think that’s a joke but, it actually happened to him during a slalom in Madonna di Campiglio, Italy, on Dec. 22, 2015. He still finished second in that race with drone wreckage in his wake.
Adding to his workmanlike devouring of the tech and general skiing world is his news-conference style.
Hirscher is the master of playing down his chances. If he were to compete in Buddy Werner League slalom against Vail 10-year-olds, he would say that he’d be lucky to make the flip against such stiff competition.
This is barely an exaggeration. After the 2011 Birds of Prey giant slalom, he crowned Ted Ligety, “Mr. GS.” That was very nice of Hirscher, but Hirscher actually won that race that day.
At Birds of Prey 2014, Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud was off to hot start, and Hirscher, then the three-time World Cup champion, was asked about his prospects for a fourth title.
“I think it is a tough fight,” Hirscher said. “Right now, there is no chance against Kjetil.”
Upon further review, Hirscher took down Jansrud, 1,448-1,288, in the World Cup points for title No. 4.
When interviewed about his prospects for his fifth title in a row, he said, “I am thinking about it. In statistics, I have no chance. No one has done it five times in a row. I have not good chances for this.”
He won No. 5 by nearly 500 points over Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen.
Last year, Hirscher was recovering from a broken ankle when the tour came to Beaver Creek for the GS. His win marked his official return to health.
“But (it was) so unexpected to win,” he said at the post-race news conference with Kristoffersen, who finished second that day.
“I’m not surprised,” Kristoffersen said.
No one, even Hirscher, should be surprised by now.
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