LENZERHEIDE, Switzerland (Reuters) - Austria was heading for a brilliant World Cup double on Thursday when Anna Fenninger secured the women’s alpine skiing World Cup title and Marcel Hirscher took a giant step towards retaining the men’s trophy.
Fenninger, who won gold in super-G at the Sochi Olympics and silver in giant slalom, finished second in Thursday’s super-G behind Lara Gut to hold a 215-point lead over the Swiss with only two races left at the Lenzerheide World Cup finals.
As a result, the 24-year-old from Salzburg can no longer be beaten as her nearest rival in the race for the ‘big globe’, Germany’s Maria Hoefl-Riesch, suffered a season-ending shoulder injury on Wednesday.
“I don’t have words to describe my feelings. I would never have thought it possible at the start of the season,” Fenninger, who placed either first or second in her last six races, said.
“Sochi for me was a turning point. To win a medal was just incredible and I realized I was capable of great things. It was great mentally.”
While she was helped by injuries to Hoefl-Riesch and Liechtenstein’s Tina Weirather, Fenninger won the last three giant slaloms of the World Cup to prove most consistent when it mattered as she became the first Austrian to win the women’s World Cup since Nicole Hosp in 2007.
“I didn’t have any pressure left after the Olympics and everything became easy from then on,” she said.
In the men’s competition, Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal retained the overall lead and claimed the super-G title despite finishing in 16th place after an error left him with no points from the race.
He holds a 19-point advantage over Hirscher, but with the final two events at the Swiss resort the Austrian’s favored giant slalom and slalom, Hirscher is in pole position to seal the crown.
Hirscher placed 12th in the super-G, which was won by France’s Alexis Pinturault.
Svindal will take part in Saturday’s giant slalom but not in Sunday’s slalom and even a below-par performance by Hirscher in both events should be enough for the Austrian to clinch his third consecutive overall title.
“I‘m glad to have won the Super-G globe, but I‘m of course disappointed about the overall. I made this bad mistake and everything collapsed. It’s hard to swallow, like many other things this season,” said the 2009 and 2007 World Cup champion, who failed to win a medal in Sochi.
“Even if I‘m still leading the World Cup, for me the battle is over. A normal Marcel Hirscher will collect the few points he needs easily,” he added.
“He is going to win his third World Cup. I didn’t think he would be so hard to beat but I must admit that he is the best skier in the world, not me.”
Editing by Josh Reich nL3N0MA4FC