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Alpine skiing: Neureuther wins slalom after Hirscher flops

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Germany's Felix Neureuther won the men's World Cup slalom in Kitzbuehel in dramatic fashion on Friday as home hero Marcel Hirscher straddled a gate charging down his second run.

Neureuther clocked a combined total of 1min 53.23sec to finish 0.57sec ahead of Norwegian teenager Henrik Kristoffersen in his third podium placing this season, with Italian veteran Patrick Thaler in third at 0.82sec.

It was the German's eighth victory on the World Cup circuit, with home hopes dashed right at the end on the floodlit Ganslern course as thick snow fell.

Hirscher, the reigning world champion in the discipline and bidding to become the first person since Jens Byggmark to notch up back-to-back slalom wins in Kitzbuehel in 2007, set off in his traditional aggressive style on the final run of the day.

But he straddled a gate halfway down his second run to leave the huge crowd groaning in despair.

Tricky conditions on the course in the first leg had already seen fancied Austrian Mario Matt and defending Olympic champion Giuliano Razzoli of Italy both ski out.

Swiss racer Daniel Yule, starting first in the second run after finishing 30th in the first 3.54sec off Hirscher, was the surprise leader through until the 19-year-old Kristoffersen, the eighth fastest after the first run.

Yule eventually finished an impressive seventh at 1.38sec thanks to his fastest time in the second run.

American Ted Ligety, a three-time gold medallist at last year's World Ski Championships in Schladming, bucked his recent slalom form to actually finish the two legs, but a mistake on the second with the line in sight cost him dearly.

The 29-year-old, the 2006 Olympic super-combined champion, finished in 15th at 2.16sec.

Austrian Benjamin Raich, a former world and Olympic slalom champion, then straddled a gate to leave the huge crowd crammed in around the finish area gasping in disappointment.

Joining Raich in failing to make it down were Italians Manfred Moelgg and Stefano Gross, and French duo Julien Lizeroux and Jean-Baptiste Grange, the latter a two-time winner in Kitzbuehel.

Croat veteran Ivica Kostelic, at 1.69sec, had remained in the reckoning for the second run, but a poor lower section saw him slip down the standings 2.25sec adrift.

The stage was set for Hirscher to claim the victory from Neureuther, but with Austrian flags waving and the crowd singing, there was only heartbreak as he straddled to leave Neureuther leaping into Kristoffersen's arms in delight at the finish area.

Hirscher eventually limped across the line more than 33sec behind Neureuther's time, his eight points not enough to see him leapfrog Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal atop the World Cup overall standings.

Svindal now has 757 points and Hirscher stands in second on 743, but the Norwegian will be hoping to extend that lead in Saturday's downhill and Sunday's super-G.

Hirscher's lead in the World Cup slalom standings was cut to 38pts from Neureuther.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140124/alpine-skiing-neureuther-wins-slalom-after-hirscher-flops-1