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Hirscher wins wild GS in Bulgaria

Sat 18th, February 2012

Bansko, Bulgaria (Sports Network) - Ted Ligety skis out, bloodies his chin. Marcel Hirscher takes the win. Teammate Marcel Mathis, 20, gets third out of nowhere. Massimiliano Blardone takes second on the track named after his famous Italian countryman Alberto Tomba.

It was a rough and tumble, switch around in the men's giant slalom here today. Hirscher came from a 0.16-second deficit after run 1 to win by an astounding 1.39 seconds (total combined time was 2 minutes, 25.35 seconds). "I skied two of the best GS runs of my life even after the mistake in the first run," the Austrian said immediately after the victory.

During his first run, the technical specialist, who is on fire this season, taking home is 7th win, made a big mistake that almost caused him to crash. He athletically hung on, maintained his poise, and still was faster than the then leader Thomas Fanara. Ligety came down next, and though slower on top of the course, made up time to secure first place by 0.16 seconds going into run No. 2.

He couldn't close the deal on the second run, however, as some compressions were giving athletes problems and he got bounced, and missed the gate. He hiked up, but finished a disappointing 27th place, 7 seconds back. In his stumble, he got whipped by a gate and cut his face. Ligety was not only wounded emotionally, but battered physically in his efforts to win today.

Bansko organizers invited a celebrity cast to the events this weekend. In the crowd were famous alpiners such as five-time overall champion Marc Girardelli and Olympic champion Alberto Tomba, plus FIS President Gian-Franco Kasper. After the competition, Tomba joined the flower ceremony and had some words: "Well, Ligety went out in the second run," Tomba shrugged, "you know this is skiing."

Hirscher has surpassed Ligety in the GS discipline standings by 81 points. He is only behind the injured Ivica Kostelic by 118 (third behind Beat Feuz) in the overall standings.

The skier of the day, however, might be Hirscher's young teammate, Mathis. After the first run, he was in position 26. He skied the fastest second run of the day, 1:13.26, to place third and secure his first career podium. His only other results on the World Cup were a 27th place in Alta Badia and 25th in Adelboden this season. He isn't even listed in the Audi FIS Ski World Cup Guide 2012.

Mathis stood in the leader box grinning from ear-to-ear as competitors passed through giving him high fives and hugs. He sat through 18 skiers- watching the first run's third and sixth place finishers Fanara and Benjamin Raich ski out- until Blardone charged into the lead, knocking the 20-year-old out of the box. Mathis said he was nervous in the leader box watching veterans ski down and miss his mark, but added, "I was more nervous on the course."

"It's great to be on the podium for the first time," said a happy, at loss- for-words racer. "I'm trying hard, I've worked hard the whole year. It's just great to be on the podium."

Just as this entire season has proved difficult for racers, organizers, and officials to deal with weather, it was no different today. Conditions went from low, stormy visibility in half of the first run to sunny skies, but the wind never stopped gusting.

For every single guy it's different," Ligety said. "The wind conditions are playing a huge role in the race today."

That was the case- and it was cold, -6 to -9 degrees celsius. It was certainly a variable weather day. During the first run, the stormy skies cleared for bib 15, Bode Miller, but he couldn't take advantage. On the second to last gate, he got off balance, spun around twice as he crossed the finish line. He finished in 47th position, 16 seconds behind Ligety and didn't qualify for the second run. Neither did top seeded racers like Cyprien Richard and Romed Neumann. The second run knocked out Fanara, Raich, and Marc Berthod.

Regardless of the circumstances, the athletes enjoyed this hill. "It's a cool hill," Ligety said. "It's pretty technical and never really super flat, and not a really super steep hill either. It's a good hill can generate some speed."

The slalom kicks off Sunday at 10:00.

OFFICIAL RESULTS - Bansko, Bulgaria

Men's Giant Slalom

1. Marcel Hirscher, AUT, 2:25.35; 2. Massimiliano Blardone, ITA, 2:26.74; 3. Marcel Mathis, AUT, 2:26.81; 4. Aksel Lund Svindal, NOR, 2:27.03; 5. Hannes Reichelt, AUT, 2:27.25; 6. Andre Myhrer, SWE, 2:27.27; 7. Truls Ove Karlsen, NOR, 2:27.35; 8. Philipp Schoerghofer, AUT, 2:27.35; Jean-Baptiste Grange, FRA, 2:27.35; 10. Manfred Moelgg, ITA, 2:27.41.

North Americans

12. Tommy Ford, USA, 2:27.64; 18. Tim Jitloff, USA, 2:28.13; 22. Jean-Philippe Roy, CAN, 2:28.52; 27. Ted Ligety, USA, 2:32.41.

Did not qualify for 2nd run

Michael Janyk, CAN; Charles Christianson, USA; Brad Spence, CAN; Bode Miller, USA.

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