tacked and found that approach lacking, eventually exiting
the course and sliding behind a sponsor panel.
Hirscher, however, was another matter. He is riding the
high that comes from consistent winning and he did not
blink. His run was not perfect, but combined with his first
was fast enough to take the lead, leaving only Ligety.
It was not in the cards for the American. He got caught by
a rut early in the run and went down on his side. The auto-
matic recovery mode kicked in and he flew to the next gate
and spun out, coming to a complete and utter halt. Though
he was able to continue, he would finish dead last of those
to see the finish line.
Slalom, Feb. 19
The Italians and the French have a few GS-only athletes,
but the ranks of slalom specialists flood the slalom standings and dominate the start lists. They came into Bansko
well rested. After facing five slaloms in January, the Feb.
19 Bulgarian slalom was the first they had faced since
Schladming’s decibel-shaking night race. They were hungry and prepared, and the weather was sunny, if a bit
The first run was close, mighty close, the top three separated by a tenth of a second and the top eight within a second. But it was Hirscher, once again, in the lead, ahead of
Swede Andre Myhrer, who has powered through the slalom
and GS portion of the schedule since Beaver Creek recording eight single-digit placings.
The biggest first-run noise for North Americans was for
Canadian Brad Spence in 11th. Ligety had gotten in 17th
fastest and Nolan Kasper, fresh off a tour back home, was
23rd. Jimmy Cochran had posted 27th while Mike Janyk
and Paul Stutz of Canada and Will Brandenburg and Tommy Ford had miscalculated and not finished the first heat.
Kasper ripped his second run. Where he had been clocked
34th, 23rd and 20th-fastest in sections of the first course, he
was second, third, second on the next test, jumping ahead
to sixth place on the day. Ligety followed suit to move up
to seventh. It was the biggest team-point total in a men’s
slalom for the season. “It was,” said American coach Mike
Day, “exciting to see.”
When Hirscher launched his second-run attack, the winner’s spot was held by teammate Mario Matt, a man 10
years his senior. Hirscher considers slalom to be a young
man’s sport and kicked out determined to top Matt’s time.
He did, but it wouldn’t have mattered. Television cameras picked up a previously undetected straddle high on the
course. FIS officials were called to review the video and
Matt was told to step off the podium. Andre Myhrer stepped
up a spot to second, but awards had to wait for a snowmobile to be dispatched to retrieve the new third-place finisher,
Stefano Gross, who was skiing down to his hotel to pack.
He was more than happy to delay. “It’s a great result as far
as I’m concerned,” Gross said. “I went down with a fever after Schladming and I still haven’t recovered 100 percent.”
The win puts one more layer of pressure on Hirscher. With
a pair of super G’s now set for the next stop in Crans Montana, he must decided if he wants to shoot for the overall
World Cup title and try to gain some points outside the technical events of slalom and GS. At his point, no one would
be surprised if he did.
Nolan Kasper put down a
terrific second run to jump
to sixth at Bansko.