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MERIBEL, France (Reuters) - Austria’s Marcel Hirscher became the first male alpine skier to win four straight overall World Cup titles on Saturday when closest rival Kjetil Jansrud decided against competing in the final slalom race.
Hirscher finished fourth in Saturday’s giant slalom won by Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen at the World Cup finals in Meribel to open a 60-point lead in the overall standings over Jansrud, who finished 11th.
After leaving everybody guessing whether he would take part in Sunday’s slalom, Norway’s Jansrud finally decided to miss the race and was not on the start list published by the International Ski Federation (FIS) on Saturday.
Hirscher is now one of five men to have won four overall titles, the record being held by Luxembourg’s Marc Girardelli with five, and at 26, the gifted Austrian can hope to collect more laurels in the future.
"It’s official, I’m super glad. It’s incredible. The pressure is completely off now," Hirscher told Austrian television.
Winner of seven races this season, the Austrian also bagged the giant slalom title and is still in contention for the slalom crown, which could have been behind Jansrud's decision not to race on Sunday.
"I previously said that I didn’t want to spoil the show, knowing that Marcel is still in contention for the slalom globe and that he should be focused and relaxed without having to think about the overall,” the Norwegian had said before deciding to pull out.
Hirscher is currently second in the slalom standings, 55 points behind Germany’s Felix Neureuther.
The final giant slalom of the season saw Jansrud’s young team mate Kristoffersen clinch his first World Cup victory in the discipline.
Boosted by his two gold medals at the junior world championships a week ago, the 20-year old Norwegian clocked two minutes and 17.36 seconds to beat Germany’s Fritz Dopfer by 0.79 seconds while France’s Thomas Fanara was third, 0.97 adrift.
Skiing more conservatively to secure vital points, Hirscher, who had already bagged the discipline title, was 1.18 off the pace.
Reporting by Manuele Lang. Writing by Francois Thomazeau; editing by Toby Davis