But for a major mistake just above the finish,
Hirscher might well have taken the race. Perhaps
that fueled his resolve for the next day’s slalom.
“Hirscher is scary on the
steep,” said Ligety. Yep.
Steve Missillier of France provided
the best run of the day in the
Val d’Isere slalom.
Val d’Isere Slalom, Dec. 12
With half of the top eight skiers on last season’s fi-
nal slalom rankings, the Austrians can throw a lot
of bodies into the fray. They needed them in the
Val d’Isere slalom, considered every bit as tough
as the GS. Three of Austria’s top slalom racers
— Manfred Pranger, Mario Matt and defending
slalom champ Reinfried Herbst — all exited on
the first run. Twenty other skiers followed suit.
French slalom ace Jean-Baptiste Grange (winner
of the first slalom of the season at Levi in Novem-
ber), Olympic gold medal winner Giuliano Razzoli
of Italy and the always-dangerous Bode Miller all
failed to complete the first run. Five more guys ex-
ited in the second run, an unusual happenstance
with World Cup points there for the taking.
Winning was Hirscher, a 21-year-old Austrian who
has already built a reputation for being undaunted
by the steep and icy courses typically found on the
World Cup circuit. Ligety said, “Hirscher is scary
on the steep.” And Hirscher proved it here.
“It is a very steep hill with a lot of rolls so you have
to ski very technically,” Hirscher told his home na-
tion’s swarming press. “This is my best weapon.
... I took a rounder line because the snow was
very bumpy. That was the plan and I followed it
That turned out to be the winning strategy on a
day when no one was able to ski error-free. Amaz-
ingly, in second was Raich, who had skipped a
race the previous week in Beaver Creek because
his back was acting up. It was his first podium of
the season, but the 87th of his incredible career.
The best run of the day, coming in the second
heat, was credited to third-place finishing Steve
Missillier of France. He was 25th after the first
run, nearly two seconds off the pace. Maybe it
was because it was his 26th birthday, or maybe
he was riding the crest of enthusiasm created by
his cheering countrymen, but Missillier’s run left
many a jaded coach frozen in place with his jaw
hanging open. Missillier held the lead most of the
afternoon by no small margin.
While the Austrians had four skiers in the top
eight of last season’s slalom list, to find four Ca-
nadians on that ranking you’d have to scan down
40 places. One wouldn’t have suspected that from
the Val d’Isere slalom. Julien Cousineau finished
in fifth place and Trevor White in 12th. Three other
Canadians — Michael Janyk, Brad Spence and