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Alpine skiing: Hirscher assured of overall World Cup

By Manuele Lang

LENZERHEIDE, Switzerland (Reuters) - Austrian Marcel Hirscher was assured his second Alpine skiing overall World Cup on Thursday after fog, wind and snow forced organizers to cancel men's and women's super-G races at the season's finals.

The decision meant Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal clinched the super-G World Cup while Slovenian Tina Maze took the women's title in the discipline.

Hirscher is certain to lift the overall crystal globe after Svindal, his sole remaining rival, said he would not enter Sunday's closing slalom.

Hirscher refused to celebrate, however, after races on the windswept Silvano Beltrametti course were called off following a heavy crash that left team mate Klaus Kroell in hospital with a broken shoulder.

"It's very difficult to rejoice about the possibility of winning the big globe on a day when Klaus Kroell got injured. It's a real pity. I will wait for the next race to celebrate," said the 24-year-old Salzburg skier, who also won the slalom World Cup.

Downhill world and World Cup champion Svindal trails the Austrian by 149 points in the standings, with only a maximum of 100 available from Saturday's giant slalom if he misses Sunday's race.

"I'm not doing the slalom. It would be useless. I would need to win it to have a chance and this is out of the question," said Svindal, who has not scored a point in a slalom for more than three years.

"I'll do the giant slalom to end on a good note but it's over," added the skier, who had not been expected to race the slalom but would have been allowed to on the basis of his overall ranking.

MAZE SUCCESS

If the decision to cancel the Super-Gs was controversial, with the Austrian team putting pressure on organizers, Hirscher's title was deserved.

Nine racers had braved gusting winds to start the race before Kroell, last year's downhill World Cup champion, crashed into the safety nets and had to be flown to hospital by helicopter.

The Austrian team left the start area before the decision had been made to call it a day. Coaches and skiers later voted not to continue by a slim margin.

"I was the only one to stand up and say I wanted to race," said Svindal. "I wanted to win another race and maybe score points. But obviously days like this are very political.

"He (Hirscher) had a fantastic season, worthy of great skiers of the past like (Sweden's Ingemar) Stenmark or (Italy's Alberto) Tomba. He deserved to score that many points," added the Norwegian.

Svindal noted that, unlike downhills and Super-Gs, slaloms are rarely canceled which makes it easier for the technical skiers to win the overall title.

He had another reason to feel aggrieved after his girlfriend, American Julia Mancuso, saw her women's Super-G World Cup hopes disappear when that race was also canceled because of the men's delay.

The crystal globe went to world champion Maze, her third of the season to go with the giant slalom and overall World Cup titles.

The Slovenian, who could add the slalom globe to her haul on Sunday, lost the downhill World Cup crown to injured American Lindsey Vonn by one point after Wednesday's men's and women's races were canceled because of fog.

"It's not yet the time for celebrations. I want to keep focused on Saturday's slalom," said Maze.

"In a sense, it's the most important race of the season because I really want to win that globe and because it's going to be a great fight," said the Slovenian, who leads American world champion Mikaela Shiffrin by seven points.

Lenzerheide has a long history of bad weather at World Cup finals with four races also called off in 2011 because of the conditions.

(Editing by Clare Fallon/Alan Baldwin)

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