Hirscher wins slalom title as Neureuther skies out

ERIC WILLEMSEN
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Austria's Marcel Hirscher races to the second place, during an alpine ski, men's World Cup giant slalom, in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, Saturday, March 9, 2013. (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)

KRANJSKA GORA, Slovenia (AP) — Marcel Hirscher of Austria clinched the World Cup slalom title Sunday after his sole rival, Felix Neureuther of Germany, skied out in the opening run of the second-to-last event of the season.

Hirscher led Neureuther by 184 points going into the race. With Neureuther straddling a gate and failing to score points, Hirscher's lead has become insurmountable with a win worth 100 points.

Hirscher, who turned 24 last week, is the youngest man to win the slalom globe since Croatia's Ivica Kostelic in 2002. He is the seventh Austrian to win the title, more than any other country.

Alexis Pinturault held a commanding lead after the rain-drenched first run. The Frenchman opened the race on a rapidly deteriorating course in 50.79 seconds to lead second-place Andre Myhrer of Sweden by 1.45 seconds. Ivica Kostelic of Croatia was another 0.06 back in third.

Pinturault, who won a slalom in Val d'Isere in December, is seeking his seventh podium of the season.

Hirscher came 2.11 behind in eighth. The Austrian leads Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal, who skipped the race, by 69 points in the overall standings.

Hirscher has been on the podium in all seven World Cup slaloms so far this season. If he finishes in the top three again, he will be the first man with eight straight slalom podiums since Italian great Alberto Tomba in 1991-92.

Many racers were critical of the conditions. The snow had already been softened after days of mild temperatures. Rain made the course even weaker.

"As a late starter, you have no chance," said Austrian veteran Benjamin Raich, who failed to finish his first run. "The course is not holding up well. It's not dangerous but it's not fair either."

Ted Ligety, who secured his fourth giant slalom title here yesterday, had a costly mistake that almost threw him off-course at the fifth gate. The American recovered to stay in the race but came 3.87 behind in 21st.

"Miserable day for ski racing," Ligety wrote on Twitter, where he posted a photo of the spectators sheltering under umbrellas.

The slalom is the last event before next week's World Cup finals in Lenzerheide, Switzerland.