December 20, 2015

LA VILLA, Italy (AP) Marcel Hirscher became the first skier to win the challenging Alta Badia giant slalom in three consecutive years Sunday, reclaiming the overall World Cup lead from Aksel Lund Svindal in the process.

Erasing a slim first-run disadvantage, Hirscher finished 0.19 seconds ahead of Henrik Kristoffersen of Norway on the steep and twisty Gran Risa Course.

''I skied totally my 100 percent,'' Hirscher said. ''I think Kristoffersen was a little bit smoother but I pushed harder.''

Kristoffersen beat Hirscher in a slalom in Val d'Isere, France, last weekend and feels he can do the same in GS.

''I'm getting closer and closer to Marcel,'' Kristoffersen said. ''Soon somebody has to beat him, so why not me?''

Opening-leg leader Victor Muffat-Jeandet of France ended up third, 0.86 behind.

''It's a new experience starting the second run in the lead,'' Muffat-Jeandet said. ''It was a really strong emotion. If I want to fight with them I need two really crazy runs. But that will come.''

Olympic and three-time world champion Ted Ligety moved up from 10th after the morning run to finish fourth, missing the podium by nearly half a second.

''It was a nice step in the right direction,'' said Ligety, who has been struggling since missing a month of training due to back and hip injuries after the season opener in Soelden, Austria. ''I'm just trying to get healthy again and get the feeling back.''

Ligety has won twice on the Gran Risa and been on the podium six times.

Italian great Alberto Tomba holds the course record with four GS wins. Hirscher also has four victories in Badia, although one of the Austrian's wins came in slalom in 2011.

''It's better to think about that when I retire,'' Hirscher said. ''Every victory, every podium is nice.''

Hirscher has finished on the podium in every race he's entered this season, including his first career super-G victory in Beaver Creek, Colorado, two weeks ago.

''Marcel is skiing unbelievable,'' Kristoffersen said. ''For sure he's the best technical skier right now and also one of the greatest of all time.

Tomba's wins on the Gran Risa came in 1987, `90, `91 and `94.

Kalle Palander of Finland and Massimiliano Blardone of Italy also each have three GS wins in Badia.

The 36-year-old Blardone finished 22nd Sunday - which was an accomplishment with the No. 56 bib - then told the crowd it was his last time racing the Gran Risa. He plans to retire at the end of this season.

In the overall standings, Hirscher moved 20 points ahead of Norwegian rival Svindal, who finished 28th.

Kjetil Jansrud, who is third overall, didn't qualify for the second run in 37th.

It was Hirscher's 35th World Cup win and puts him back on track to become the first man to win five consecutive overall titles.

Ligety led a strong day for the U.S. Ski Team, with Tim Jitloff finishing seventh and Tommy Ford placing 12th after posting the fastest second run by a large margin.

Alta Badia is celebrating its 30th anniversary of World Cup racing, with Swedish great Ingemark Stenmark having won the first race on the Gran Risa in 1985.

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Andrew Dampf on Twitter: www.twitter.com/asdampf

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