KRANJSKA GORA, Slovenia (AP) — Austrian skier Marco Schwarz locked up the men’s World Cup slalom title Sunday, finishing seventh in a race won by Clément Noël.
The result gave Schwarz an insurmountable lead of 122 points over his only remaining challenger in the discipline standings, Ramon Zenhäusern, with only next week’s slalom at the finals in Switzerland coming up.
The Swiss skier finished Sunday’s race in third, but needed a win to retain his chance of overtaking Schwarz in the final race.
“This is the nicest seventh place of my career,” Schwarz said.
Noël defied heavy snowfall to hold on to his first-run lead and beat Victor Muffat-Jeandet by 0.62 seconds for a French 1-2 finish.
“It was really, really tough, the second run, so bumpy. I don’t know how but I just managed to ski fast, the second run also,” Noël said after his eighth career win and second of the season.
“I’m more than happy to share the podium with Victor. This is his first podium in slalom. A great day for us,” Noël added.
Henrik Kristoffersen, who was second after the opening run, dropped to fifth.
Overall World Cup leader Alexis Pinturault straddled a gate early in his second run. The Frenchman failed to increase his 31-point lead over Marco Odermatt in the overall standings. The Swiss skier doesn’t compete in slaloms.
Schwarz had not won a World Cup slalom before this season but triumphed in two of the circuit’s classic races, in Adelboden and Schladming, and racked up five more podium results.
Schwarz succeeded Kristoffersen, who won the title last year, the first season after the retirement of Marcel Hirscher. The record eight-time overall champion from Austria won the slalom globe six times in total.
“It’s cool to be the successor of those two. This is a childhood dream come true,” Schwarz said.
Schwarz’ triumph came less than four weeks after he won gold in the combined event at the world championships.
“A world title is also something really special but the slalom globe is a reward for your performance in an entire season. And my performance was really, really cool this season,” he said.
Conditions on the Podkoren course rapidly deteriorated during both runs, with the increasing snowfall causing lots of ruts around the gates.
Only 42 of the 67 starters finished their opening run and a deficit of four seconds was still good enough to qualify for the final run.
Visibility was also an issue and many skiers wiped snow off their goggles after finishing, suggesting their ability to see had been hampered.
The World Cup finals in Lenzerheide start Wednesday with the downhills for men and women.
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