Myhrer upsets SL field in season finale; wins race and title
by Ana Jelusic; www.fisalpine.com
Schladming, Austria (Sports Network) - The final men's slalom race of the 2011-2012 Audi FIS World Cup season proved full of surprises, the top slalom contenders - Ivica Kostelic and Marcel Hirscher - eliminating themselves in the first run. This opened the door for Swedish slalom hero Andre Myhrer to charge in and take the 2012 title AND win the race - his second straight.
With bib No. 1, Ivica Kostelic - who entered the last race in Schladming with a 50-point lead over Hircher in the slalom standings - fell just a few seconds into the first run, managed to stand up and finish, but essentially ruined his chances. Wearing bib No. 3, all Hirscher needed to do to grasp his third globe of the season was finish among the top four in today's race, but things didn't go as planned and half the way down the course, Hirscher straddled and also sidelined himself for the Slalom title.
Only 16 out of the 26 skiers at the start made it to the finish of the first run without major issue and in the second run, Myhrer trailed German Felix Neureuther but surged ahead for victory. He crossed the finish line, realized the title was his and immediately took a moment to pay tribute to the week's noted icons.
First, Myhrer honored Didier Cuche with a ski flip, then he took off his skis and paid tribute to freshly retired teammate Anja Paerson in doing her token belly slide. The 29-year-old then added a victory dance of his own, playing a little air guitar with his ski pole.
That must have just been the warm up for the Swede who claims to be more nervous about his concert at the popular "Tenne" tonight than he was in between his slalom runs. Myhrer is well known for his guitar playing skills and improvises a few concerts over the season.
"I sure knew I stood a chance, but it was so small that I decided to just stay focused on my skiing and do my part," Myhrer said. "I was trying not to get affected by what the other guys were doing and am really happy that worked out. Than, especially in between runs after things developed as they did I tried not to think at all because of course I would have gotten nervous. It's good we are playing at the club tonight so I was actually more nervous about that and the skiing seemed easy."
After all Kostelic went trough since Sochi, today it all just became a little too much and he chose not to make any statements until he cools off and sets his emotions back in place. He watched the race developments from the finish line not being able to do anything about the outcome must have been beyond frustrating. After Myhrer crossed the finish line and it became obvious that he won the Slalom globe - Kostelic just sat there on the side extremely disappointed.
Vedran Pavlek, the Director of the Croatian Ski Association made his appearance in the media zone and tried to summarize what happened.
"This is not just about today not working out, things have not been going Ivica's way for a while now. If I look at it from a realistic point of view, this outcome was not all that unexpected. After his injury in Sochi it was hard to get back - it was maybe more all of us hoping and wishing he could do it than it was realistic. Also, in these past few weeks Myhrer started flying and it was hard to plan ahead the fact that he could grasp 280 points in the last three races. Today was also very obvious how of a role does psychology play in situations like these - Hirscher was not skiing like he knows and than straddled. Races like this one are beyond stressful for everyone involved and I am really sorry because this is the second Overall globe Ivica lost due to injuries. In 2009, he was leading the Overall and than he hurt this back, this year it was his knee... I guess there is nothing to do but start the next season at this very moment. Ivica is feeling rather well physically, he is well motivated for next season and his goal is to chase the Overall again. He took it really hard today, this Slalom title would have been a great reward for all he went through lately but Myhrer just had an amazing end of the season and this is the outcome."
Today's race was sure an interesting one, with only 14 races finishing in the points at the end and three more finishing with times over 14 seconds slower than the winner's. Even though the race was held on what has been the women's side of the hill for the past week, and not on the usual Schladming Night's Slalom one, it seems as if the combination of soft snow that froze overnight gave all skiers some troubles.
Already in the first run we saw a lot of DNF's and the trend continued into the second run as well.
Beat Feuz, who last night decided and than announced he would not be taking part in the Slalom today, would have needed a top 10 to "steal" the globe from Hirscher.
When the decision was made, it made sense since it was somewhat unrealistic that a skier that never scored a single point in Slalom could aim for a top 10 position... After how things developed today, the pending question in the finish area was - could Feuz have stood a chance if he started today? It might be a very, very long shot, but when you have only 14 skiers scoring points in a World Cup Final's race - it somehow feels as if anything would have been possible.
With today's races the 2011/2012 Audi FIS Ski World Cup season is over and the best skiers in the world are 23 years old Marcel Hirscher from Austria and America's Lindsey Vonn.
Skiers are headed for testing, vacation training and rest before they show up in Soelden at the end of October to kick off what will for sure be an equally exciting new season.
OFFICIAL RESULTS - Schladming, Austria
1. Andre Myhrer,SWE, 1:32.47; 2. Felix Neureuther, GER, 1:32.77; 3. Mario Matt, AUT, 1:33.07; 4. Fritz Dopfer, GER, 133.36; 5. Steve Missillier, FRA, 1:33.63; 6. Mattias Hargin, SWE, 1:33.65; 7. Stefano Gross, ITA, 1:33.97; 8. Jens Byggmark, SWE, 1:34.23; 8. Mitja Velencic, SLO, 1:34.23; 10. Michael Janyk, CAN, 1:34.41.
Other North Americans
11. Ted Ligety, USA, 1:34.71; 15. Nolan Kasper, USA, 1:46.92.
03/18 09:15:55 ET