Austrian skier Feller leads World Cup slalom after 1st run

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ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) As soon as Italian veteran Manfred Moelgg crossed the line at a men's World Cup night slalom on Thursday, Alberto Tomba pumped his fist in the finish area.

The slalom great from the 1980s and 90s was ecstatic for Moelgg ending an almost eight-year wait for his third career victory. Moelgg was sidelined for almost a year after tearing an Achilles tendon in 2014.

After dense snowfall in the opening run, Moelgg endured strong winds better than anyone in the final leg on the Crveni Spust course to beat Felix Neureuther of Germany by 0.72 seconds.

''It was unbelievable,'' the Italian said. ''In training I am skiing very hard and very good, and I wanted to bring that into the race. To win in these conditions is pretty special.''

World Cup slalom champion Henrik Kristoffersen was 0.77 behind in third. The Norwegian had won nine of the 14 previous slaloms he competed in since March 2015.

''It was a little bit sad for the entire race that the conditions were as they were,'' Kristoffersen said. ''Some people might say it was not a smart idea to ski the second run. For me, it's debatable. Some people got a lot of wind, some people didn't.''

Neureuther, who earned his first podium of the season, didn't agree.

''When it's windy, it's windy, you just have to handle that situation,'' the German said. ''Today was a tough race, definitely, but at the end the best skiers are on the podium. There is not only Marcel (Hirscher) and Henrik who can ski fast. Today, Manny and me, we beat them so it's all good.''

Hirscher was sixth and the Austrian remained in the overall lead, 271 points clear of Norway's Kjetil Jansrud, who usually doesn't compete in slaloms. On the eve of the race, Hirscher took part in an exhibition event with other overall champions to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Alpine skiing's World Cup.

Fifty years ago to the day, Heinrich Messner of Austria won the first ever World Cup race in Berchtesgaden, Germany.

''To win here in front of these champions and on the birthday of the World Cup, that is nice,'' said Moelgg, whose previous World Cup win in February 2009 came in a slalom in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.

At 34 years and 216 days, Moelgg became the second oldest winner of a slalom after Mario Matt, who won a race in 2013 when the Austrian was 34 years and 250 days old.

Although Moelgg had to wait long for it, his third triumph was not totally unexpected.

He finished third in this season's first slalom in Levi, Finland, for his first podium in nearly three years. And he followed that result by placing fourth on home snow in Madonna di Campiglio last month.

''There are no secrets. It's always a lot of hard work. The last two years were not easy,'' Moelgg said.

Manuel Feller of Austria, who led after the first run, straddled the second gate of his final run and missed the chance to earn his first career top-three result.

American Mark Engel, who was third after the opening leg, also failed to finish.

Loudly cheered by 11,000 Croatian fans, former overall champion Ivica Kostelic finished 3.94 seconds off the lead and failed to qualify for the second run. The Croatian standout said he wants to keep competing until the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics in South Korea.