The Associated PressZAGREB (AP) — Marcel Hirscher won a slalom on Thursday to match Italian great Alberto Tomba’s tally of 50 men’s World Cup wins.
The six-time overall champion from Austria became only the fourth male skier to reach that mark, also joining Hermann Maier (54) and Ingemar Stenmark (86).
On the women’s circuit, only Lindsey Vonn (78), Annemarie Moser-Proell (62) and Vreni Schneider (55) have passed the 50-win milestone.
“I haven’t been following Alberto’s career very closely. For me the ‘Sandmann’ was more interesting back then,” Hirscher quipped, referring to a character from a German-language children’s television program in the 1990s.
Tomba, who also won Olympic gold in slalom and twice in GS, won his last race shortly before retiring in March 1998, while Hirscher turned nine that month.
Watched by 11,000 spectators under floodlights on Thursday, Hirscher beat his Austrian teammate and first-run leader, Michael Matt, by 0.05 seconds. Henrik Kristoffersen of Norway was 0.11 behind in third, with another Austrian, Manuel Feller, trailing by 0.79 in fourth.
With his third slalom win and fifth overall this season, Hirscher stretched his lead in the overall standings to 94 points over second-place Kristoffersen.
The Norwegian got his seventh podium but is still awaiting his first win of the season, and 16th overall.
He led the race with only Hirscher and Matt still to come, and lost his temper and kicked a chair in the finish area as soon as Hirscher edged his time.
The result gave Hirscher his 114th World Cup podium, equaling the Austrian record set by Moser-Proell. Only Stenmark (155) and Vonn (131) have finished more times in the top three of a World Cup event.
Matt, the younger brother of 2014 Olympic slalom champion Mario Matt, posted the fastest time and led Hirscher by 0.21 after the opening run.
Matt was the last starter in the final run and initially extended his lead to 0.60 seconds, but fell off the pace on the steep middle part of the Crveni Spust course.
His advantage was only 0.17 at the final split time and he lost over two tenths in the finish section.
“It was brutally hard to find my rhythm in the second run,” Hirscher said.
“Michi [Matt] showed how fast you could be there. It was good that I managed to speed up. This winter I am the lucky one when it comes to the hundredths.”
Matt, who also finished runner-up in a city event in Oslo last Monday, missed out on his second career victory after winning a slalom in Slovenia last season.
The men’s World Cup next moves to Switzerland for a GS and another slalom in Adelboden.