(Reuters) – Austria’s Marcel Hirscher lifted the men’s giant slalom World Cup title with a victory at Kranjska Gora in Slovenia on Saturday, fresh from his two Olympic golds at last month’s Pyeongchang Winter Games.
Hirscher notched up his 56th World Cup win, and 27th in giant slalom, in a repeat of the Olympic podium — ahead of Henrik Kristoffersen of Norway and Frenchman Alexis Pinturault.
Hirscher, who won gold in the giant slalom and combined events at the Olympics, secured the crystal globe with 620 points to Kristoffersen’s 495 and Pinturault’s 329 after seven of the season’s eight races.
It was his fifth title in giant slalom, the 15th in total, and came the day after his 29th birthday.
On the 10th anniversary of his first World Cup podium at the same venue, he was 1.66 seconds faster than Kristoffersen over the two runs and 2.51 better than Pinturault.
“I am very happy that it happened today,” Hirscher told Eurosport. “To me (the title) comes as a little bit of a surprise as I haven’t been thinking about it; I was just thinking about the race.”
Kristoffersen was full of praise for his rival, saying: “Marcel is in his own league. He is the best racer.”
The Austrian is set to win an unprecedented seventh straight overall World Cup crown. He has 1,394 points to Kristoffersen’s 1,125 and 716 for Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal. Pinturault is fourth on 687.
One more giant slalom race, with 100 points on offer to the winner, is on the calendar, at the World Cup finals in Are, Sweden, on March 17.
Hirscher could also wrap up the slalom title on Sunday as he goes into the penultimate race in the discipline here with a lead of 144 points over Kristoffersen.
(Writing by Rex Gowar and Clare Fallon; Editing by Ken Ferris and Pritha Sarkar)