INTERNATIONAL ALPINE SKIER OF THE YEAR
Two Decembers ago, just after a brilliant second run had lifted
Ted Ligety to victory in the first World Cup GS of the season
at Beaver Creek, the American was asked which racers could
threaten his GS dominance. “Hirscher,” he said. “That kid is fast.”
Marcel Hirscher didn’t get his full opportunity to prove how
fast in 2011, sustaining a season-ending ankle injury in the fifth
GS of the season, Feb. 6, at Hinterstoder. That injury changed
something at Hirscher’s core.
“The injury made me learn a lot,” Hirscher said recently. “In this
forced break, I felt from head to toe how important my friends and
family are. Being unable to do anything is anything but nice.”
Family is, in no small part, why Hirscher is now being called
“The Lord of the Spheres” for having gained the FIS crystal globe
trophies in winning the World Cup overall and GS titles. His
dad, Ferdinand, operates the Schischule Ferdinand Hirscher in
Annaberg, Austria, about a three-hour drive from Schladming,
where the younger Hirscher secured his awards in March.
Hirscher learned to walk and ski at roughly the same time,
and his father is still mightily involved in his skiing. According to
sponsor Atomic Skis, the two Hirschers will discuss such nuances
of racing as what fraction of a millimeter of bevel to use for the
best results on the particular snow expected the next day.
“Fundamentally not much has changed from last season,”
the elder Hirscher says of his now famous son’s technique.
“Sometimes he was unlucky. He’s just had the luck on his
side [this season] with the decisive hundredths. They are the
hundredths who failed him at the 2009 World Championships and
the Olympic medals in 2010 and now have come back.”
Hirscher’s style, his father says, is dictated by his size. He is
slight of build and less than 5 feet 9 inches. That stature forces
him to be extremely aggressive, “to compensate for the deficit of
mass,” says Ferdinand.
His style also leaves very little room for error. He straddled in
half of his slalom races this season, and won five others. He
had better luck, but fewer wins, in GS. His worst GS result of the
season was sixth, in the opener. He missed the podium twice
and won four times. Nine wins in a season lets him breathe
rarified air. Just seven men in history have had more wins in a
season: Hermann Maier, Ingemar Stenmark, Jean-Claude Killy,
Marc Girardelli, Alberto Tomba, Pirmin Zurbriggen, and Stephan
Eberharter. All of them have been named Ski Racing International
Alpine Skier of the Year. Hirscher joins them.