Hirscher leads WCup slalom after 1st run at Levi

LEVI, Finland (AP) Henrik Kristoffersen of Norway won the World Cup men's slalom opener, beating the world champion Marcel Hirscher by 0.12 seconds in foggy conditions on Sunday.

The 20-year-old Kristoffersen had a combined time of 1 minute, 50.39 seconds, after the Austrian led after the first run on the Finnish Arctic slope in Levi.

Germany's Felix Neureuther - eighth after the first run - finished third, 1.31 seconds behind Kristoffersen. Sebastian-Foss Solevaag of Norway came fourth.

Olympic champion Mario Matt of Austria failed to finish after his boot hit the snow, causing him to slide off the course in the first run.

Kristoffersen, who was just six-hundredths-of-a-second behind Hirscher after the first run, surged ahead with the day's fastest time 54.31 as the northern darkness set in.

''I'm probably never going to do a perfect run,'' he said. ''It's always possible to ski faster, and there's always things you can do better.''

The Norwegian was rewarded with 29,000 euros ($36,000) in prize money and a live reindeer from the local Lapland region, which Levi organizers first presented to winners last year.

''I think it's a really cool prize,'' Kristoffersen said. ''I hope to win more of them in the future.''

Tina Maze of Slovenia, who won the women's race Saturday, named her reindeer Victor, for victory, and Kristoffersen said he would call his Lars, after his father.

Marcel Hischer described the Levi race as ''an unbelievable fight'' between him and Kristoffersen for the top podium spot, but said he was ''0.1 percent'' disappointed that he was beaten. ''But I need to be more focussed and concentrated tobeing faster,'' he said.

Last month, Hirscher opened the World Cup season strongly in Soelden, Austria, by winning the giant slalom with a margin of 1.58 and, in the process, beat Olympic and world giant slalom champion Ted Ligety by more than three seconds. On Sunday, the American finished 18th after coming 22nd in the first run. Ligety had a combined time of 1:53.72.

Levi - the northernmost World Cup venue, about 125 kilometers (80 miles) north of the Arctic Circle - is known as one of the toughest slalom slopes on the circuit. It had a hard, gritty base after days of cold temperatures, softened by the new snow.

Ligety said he had never done well in Levi but that the conditions were good.

''I skied a little bit better in the second run but definitely made big mistakes in the wrong spots which cost a lot of time,'' he said. ''Levi's a hill with specifics that doesn't apply to a lot of places, but we've been struggling with snow conditions in the US. But once I feel I have a bit more volume under my belt I should have a better chance to figure it out.''

Hirscher leads the overall World Cup standings with 180 points followed by Germany's Fritz Dopfer with 120. Kristoffersen is third with 100 points.

The men's World Cup continues at Lake Louise, Canada, on Nov. 26, but Kristoffersen, who has never been to the United States before, will be travelling to Beaver Creek to compete in giant slalom in early December.

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