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Marcel Hirscher matches Alberto Tomba with 4th GS win in Alta Badia

Austria’s Marcel Hirscher competes during an alpine ski, men’s World Cup giant slalom, in Alta Badia Italy, Sunday Dec. 18, 2016. (Alessandro Trovati / Associated Press)
Austria’s Marcel Hirscher competes during an alpine ski, men’s World Cup giant slalom, in Alta Badia Italy, Sunday Dec. 18, 2016. (Alessandro Trovati / Associated Press)
By Andrew Dampf Associated Press

LA VILLA, Italy – Marcel Hirscher was more pleased at finally beating his French rivals than with the fact that he had matched Alberto Tomba with a record fourth giant slalom win in Alta Badia on Sunday.

The overall World Cup leader from Austria increased his first-leg lead and finished 0.71 seconds ahead of Mathieu Faivre of France on the steep and dark Gran Risa course. Florian Eisath of Italy was third, 1.10 behind.

Hirscher had finished second behind Frenchmen – Alexis Pinturault twice and Faivre once – in each of the previous three giant slalom races. Thomas Fanara and Victor Muffat-Jeandet, two more French skiers, have also been highly competitive.

“I’m super happy to get my first GS win of the season,” Hirscher said. “The French team is the benchmark at moment. All four guys showed in France how strong they are.”

Pinturault, who won on home snow in Val d’Isere last weekend, fell early in his second run, spun around and crashed into the safety netting at high speed. He was charging hard after placing seventh in the opening run.

Pinturault was slow getting up but skied down under his own power. He said later that he was not injured but had only sore legs.

Olympic champion Ted Ligety slid off course shortly into his first run. The American, a two-time winner on the Gran Risa, has been unable to train properly lately due to severe back pain.

“I just have stabbing pain all the way down my leg, nerve pain, so I haven’t been able to ski much,” Ligety said. “I’ve been getting injections and trying to get it sorted out but it hasn’t really turned the corner yet.”

Italian great Tomba captured his wins on the Gran Risa course in 1987, `90, `91 and `94.

Hirscher has now won this race four straight years. He also took a slalom in Badia in 2011.

“I’m not thinking about breaking records,” Hirscher said. “I don’t know how long I will ski.”

Attempting to become the first skier to win six consecutive overall titles, Hirscher increased his lead in the standings to 218 points ahead of Kjetil Jansrud, who didn’t qualify for a second run.

The most challenging section of the Gran Risa course is usually the steep and dark upper area but many skiers had trouble with an artificial jump on the flatter bottom part this year.

Hirscher was slightly out of control going over the jump in his first run but he was perfect in his second trip down.

Artificial, built-in jumps are a rarity in giant slalom.

“It’s good to have some parts of a ski race where spectators are screaming and shouting and nervous watching in TV,” Hirscher said. “I was also watching in the start when one of the guys jumped far away into the flat and it was fun to see.”

Eisath had just taken the lead and the crowd was going wild when Faivre began his second run.

“I was listening to music but fortunately I took my headphones out early enough to hear the crowd cheering for Eisath, so I knew I had to really attack to take the lead and I did,” Faivre said. “But then Hirscher was really perfect in the second run and on a higher level today.”

It was the first podium result for Eisath in his 100th World Cup race.

“It’s been a really long journey with lots of ups and downs and lots of fighting,” said Eisath, who is from the nearby Val d’Ega and had his entire family and fan club in attendance.

Zan Kranjec of Slovenia finished fourth to match his best career result from the season opener in Soelden, Austria.

The top American finishers were Tommy Ford in 13th and Ryan Cochran-Siegle in 20th with the No. 50 bib.

In the opening run, Philipp Schoerghofer was faster than his teammate Hirscher before he lost control and skied through one of the final gates. Erik Read of Canada also crashed into the safety netting.

A parallel giant slalom is scheduled for Monday night on the Gran Risa.

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