The Austrian skier, fresh from a big win in Val d’Isere the previous weekend, clocked up two fine runs to triumph with a combined time of 1:37.5, despite narrowly avoiding a fall in the second. He fended off Frenchman Alex Pinturault, who came in 0.35 seconds behind. American Ted Ligety, skiing at a venue where he has won twice in the past, finished third and slipped to 60 points behind Hircher in the giant slalom standings – and 106 behind him on an overall World Cup leaderboard that is currently headed by Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal.
Hircher’s fine form bodes for an intriguingly open battle for gold in Sochi, and he expressed his relief at defeating the hotly-favoured Ligety.
"I'm happy to see that Ted is beatable and human," he smiled, having notched his third win of the season and his fifth podium finish in six races.
Liechtenstein’s Wierather claims first win
Liechtenstein’s hopes of a first medal at the Olympic Winter Games since 1988 were raised in Val d’Isere, France, on Sunday, when World Cup leader Tina Wierather claimed the first giant slalom win of her career.
The 24 year-old, whose form has seen her edge 27 points ahead of Lara Gut on the World Cup leaderboard, finished 0.75 seconds faster than the Swiss star, with Sweden’s Maria Pietilae-Holmner finishing third. It was her second win in consecutive weekends, following a super-G victory in St Moritz, Switzerland, but she played down her chances of topping the end-of-season pile.
“It's cool to have the chance to fight for it. It's the first time I've been so consistent. But it's only December so I'm not thinking about that,” she said.
Liechtenstein’s most recent Olympic medalist was Paul Frommelt, who won men’s slalom bronze in Calgary almost 26 years ago. The principality has nine medals to its name in total.
Sara Takanashi extends ski jump lead
Japan’s Sara Takanashi secured her third consecutive win in Hinterzarten, Germany, at the weekend, extending her lead in the ski jump World Cup. Takanashi, who only turned 17 in October, posted a winning total of 239.9 points with jumps of 96 and 98.5 metres – and that was enough to see off the challenges of Russia’s Irina Avvakumova (227.9 points) and Germany’s Carina Vogt (224.7 points).
Takanashi, already Youth Olympic Games gold medal winner last year in Innsbruck, became the youngest individual winner of the overall World Cup title last year, at just 16, and looks set to be the woman to beat in Sochi next February.
Lamy Chappuis sends out signal in Schonach
Jason Lamy Chappuis, gold medalist in the 10km individual normal hill event at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, served notice of his intention to compete for honours this time around with an impressive victory in Schonach, Germany
The Frenchman won the Nordic Combined World Cup event by 0.7 seconds from Germany’s Johannes Rydzek, who was spurred on by a vociferous home crowd, with Japan’s Akito Watabe finishing third. Windy conditions were such that the ski jumping round of the event had to be cancelled, but Lamy Chappuis’ all-round consistency ensured that he took his second victory of the season, closing the gap on competition leader Eric Frenzel, who finished eighth.
A strong final uphill effort from Lamy Chappuis made certain of the win and ensured that he moves into the Christmas break in third position in the leaderboard, behind Frenzel and Watabe.
Information on tickets for Sochi 2014 is available here: :http://www.olympic.org/news/sochi-2014-olympic-winter-games-tickets/190291