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Marcel Hirscher starts FIS World Cup history bid

Marcel Hirscher begins his bid for history when the FIS Alpine Skiing World Cup returns with a giant slalom race in Soelden on Sunday.

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The Austrian claimed a third straight overall World Cup title last season and is now aiming to become the first man to pick up a fourth consecutive big globe.

Hirscher has enjoyed particular success in the slalom, topping the standings in the past two years, but giant slalom has also proved a fruitful discipline for the 25-year-old.

Indeed, he was denied a second career title in the discipline by giant slalom specialist Ted Ligety in 2013, the latter triumphing as a result of having won more races after both men finished level on points.

Ahead of this season's opening event in his home country, Hirscher told a press conference: "I am more than ready. The opportunity is there [to win another overall title]."

In an interview with the New York Times, he added: "I'm sure it's not easy to win it four times in a row, because no one else has done it before, and there's a reason for that. But if it happens, it would be unbelievable.

"I'm getting older, I have more experience, and I know exactly which people and situations take energy away from me. I learned a lot last season and I'm more ready than ever."

Hirscher's attempt to enter the record books appears to have been made easier by the absence of his main challenger in the last two years, Aksel Lund Svindal.

The Norwegian, world champion in downhill, tore his Achilles playing football and is likely to miss the entire 2014-15 season.

Ligety, a five-time giant slalom champion, has been tipped to provide a challenge to Hirscher's overall dominance, but to do so he will need to show more consistency across all disciplines.

Another man named among the favourites is Frenchman Alexis Pinturault, who finished third in the overall standings last season.

The 23-year-old is widely regarded as a future star in alpine skiing and, with seven World Cup wins and 22 podiums to his name already, it would be foolhardy to rule out his challenge.

Hirscher, Ligety and Pinturault can certainly be expected to be among the lead contenders on the Rettenbach glacier on Sunday.

Warm weather over the past few weeks led to race organisers closing the course for training, although forecasts suggest that colder temperatures could lead to too much snow over the weekend.

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