March 1, 2015 / 2:48 PM / in 3 years

Hirscher humbles rivals in Stenmark style in Garmisch

GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN (Reuters) - Marcel Hirscher achieved a victory margin unseen in the alpine skiing World Cup for 36 years when he won a men’s giant slalom in Garmisch-Partenkirchen by a huge 3.28-seconds on Sunday.

Marcel Hirscher of Austria clears a gate during his first run in the men's Alpine Skiing World Cup giant slalom in Garmisch-Partenkirchen March 1, 2015. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

The Austrian clinched his fifth victory in the discipline this season in an aggregate time of two minutes and 43.23 seconds to humble the rest of the field. Local favorite Felix Neureuther was second while veteran Austrian Benni Raich celebrated turning 37 on Saturday with the third podium spot, 3.44 adrift.

Only ski great Ingemar Stenmark had previously won a giant slalom by a wider margin and he did it twice in the 1978-1979 season. ”To be honest I have no idea how I did it. When I saw my lead after the first run I didn’t know what to think of it,” said Hirscher, who led by 1.99 at the halfway stage. “I tested new equipment today and I must say it’s just perfect and the little bit of time I took at every gate probably built that historical gap.”

The Austrian added it was even more special to share this moment with Raich: “I had posters of him all over my walls. You don’t share a podium with your idol everyday.”

With a 188-point lead over Olympic and world champion Ted Ligety in the giant slalom standings, Hirscher will almost certainly secure the discipline’s crystal globe with only two races left for the American to bridge the gap.

Ligety had to be content with fourth place, 3.56 off the pace.

Hirscher holds the same 188-point advantage over Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud in the overall standings and is more than ever the favorite to bag his fourth World Cup title in succession at the finals in Meribel, France, later this month.

The women’s World Cup is a much closer affair with the last two overall winners, Anna Fenninger and Tina Maze, still fiercely battling it out. Austria’s Fenninger won a super-combined in foggy Bansko just ahead of Slovenia’s Maze and now lies 64 points behind her in the race for the title.

The ski weekend in Bulgaria was affected by the conditions with two Super-Gs called off because of the fog, while American Lindsey Vonn was seriously hampered in her super-combined Super-G run as she started when the visibility was at its lowest. She did not even bother starting the afternoon’s slalom.

Reporting by Manuele Lang, Writing by Francois Thomazeau, editing by Toby Davis

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