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Young Norwegian Henrik Kristoffersen pulled off a superb victory in Tuesday’s night race in Schladming (AUT), defeating home hope Marcel Hirscher to win the final slalom race before Sochi 2014.
The 19-year-old claimed his first-ever World Cup victory, and his third podium in total, in only his 23rd race thanks to a fine second run in which he overhauled the initial lead established by another Austrian, Mario Matt.
His time of 1:47.43 was all the more remarkable given that he had trailed Hirscher, who took the lead after Matt failed to complete his second run, by 0.57 seconds at the last split.
A blistering final section was enough to see him finish 0.18 seconds faster than Hirscher and 0.19 seconds ahead of third-placed Felix Neureuther (GER).
After being held aloft by Hirscher and Neureuther at the end of the race, he admitted it was still hard to believe that he had managed to defeat two of his heroes.
“I watched these two guys for a long time,” he said. “I looked at Marcel’s skiing and I’ve tried to adapt my skiing to his while keeping my own twist to it. I’m still their fan and it’s crazy what happened today.”
Hirscher, slalom world champion in 2013, was quick to return the compliment, stating: “He has brilliant technique and smart skiing. I would almost say that he is one of the leaders of a new generation that we can all learn from.”
Roared on by a 45,000-strong crowd, Hirscher did enough to close the gap between him and leader Aksel Lund Svindal in the overall World Cup standings to just 22 points.
In the slalom rankings, the Austrian now enjoys a 50 point lead over Kristoffersen and Neureuther, who are joint second.
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