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June 29, 2017

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Austria's day as Fenninger wins overall World Cup

LENZERHEIDE, Switzerland -- On a great day for ski-crazy Austria, Anna Fenninger won her first overall Alpine World Cup title and Marcel Hirscher took a huge step toward his third.

Fenninger's breakout success was expected on Thursday, though Hirscher surprised himself on super-G day at the World Cup Finals by beating the master of the discipline, Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway.

Austria can complete its first title double since 2002 when the season-ending slalom and giant slalom — Hirscher's strongest events — are raced this weekend.

That leaves the nation time to savor Fenninger's success, after her second-place finish behind super-G winner Lara Gut built an unassailable points lead over her Swiss friend.

"It's just, wow," said Fenninger, the first Austrian woman to win the overall title since Nicole Hosp in 2007. "It means that you are the best skier in the world over the whole season."

Four weeks after winning Olympic gold in super-G, and silver in giant slalom, Fenninger carried her momentum from Sochi into a surge of World Cup points.

Her path to the sport's most prestigious prize was certainly made easier when closest challenger, Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany, sustained season-ending injuries after crashing in the downhill on Wednesday.

Still, Fenninger's consistency over a tiring five-month season earned her the honor of becoming the 27th different women's champion since the World Cup launched in 1967.

"You can't win the overall because you are lucky," Gut said. "You win the overall because you are the best."

Fenninger's only slip since Sochi was a sixth in the final downhill, racing minutes before Hoefl-Riesch crashed.

"I was so nervous yesterday it was not normal," Fenninger said. "But I learned from yesterday for today and I'm stoked that I can show my good skiing again."

Starting just before Gut on Thursday, she punched the air with her right fist after crossing the line, then blew a kiss to the television camera while waiting for her rival in the finish area.

Gut then finished in 1 minute, 17.14 seconds, 0.61 faster on the sunbathed course. Tina Maze of Slovenia, the defending overall champion, trailed Gut by 0.95 in third.

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