By Simon Evans PYEONGCHANG (Reuters) – Marcel Hirscher, the greatest skier of his generation, ended his long wait for an Olympic gold medal when the Austrian claimed top spot in the men’s combined event after a blistering slalom run on Tuesday. Hirscher, who has won the last six overall World Cup titles and has a […]
Brilliant Hirscher claims elusive first gold medal
By Simon Evans
PYEONGCHANG (Reuters) – Marcel Hirscher, the greatest skier of his generation, ended his long wait for an Olympic gold medal when the Austrian claimed top spot in the men’s combined event after a blistering slalom run on Tuesday.
Hirscher, who has won the last six overall World Cup titles and has a seventh well within his grasp, climbed for 12th place after the downhill segment at the Jeongseon Alpine Centre to pip France’s Alexis Pinturault by 0.23 seconds.
The Austrian’s previous best in the Olympics was a silver medal in slalom at Sochi four years ago.
Hirscher was forced to hold back his joy for a few moments after team mate Matthias Mayer, who was within touching distance, made a strong start to his slalom but forked a gate and fell.
The 28-year-old Hirscher, who has said this would be his last Olympics, sprinted out into the finishing area to celebrate his triumph.
Victor Muffat-Jeandet completed a good day for French skiers by claiming the bronze medal behind compatriot Pinturault in an event that brings together a downhill stage and then a slalom section to test the all-round skills of competitors.
Norway’s Aksel Svindal, who was second after the downhill segment behind Germany’s Thomas Dressen, surprisingly decided not to run the slalom leg.
A Norwegian team official said that while Svindal did not have an injury, he was concerned about his knee after the warm-up.
Early leader Dressen, who has little slalom pedigree, finished in ninth position on a day when organizers were delighted to finally get action underway following 48 hours of weather postponements.
With strong winds still a concern, the competition went ahead with an adjusted downhill stage, racing lower down the course at the designated super-G start and using the ‘blue wind line’ which made for easier jumps.
Dressen was first out and completed the course in one minute, 19.24 seconds and Hirscher, second down, was 1.32 seconds slower.
The winds soon whipped up and caused problems on the relatively benign jumps, however.
Russian Pavel Trikhichev and American Ryan Cochran-Siegle both crashed out after clipping gates.
Italian Peter Fill somehow managed to land safely when the wind caught him midway through a jump and forced him into an awkward position, but he then crashed out in the slalom.
(Reporting by Simon Evans and Nick Mulvenney; Editing by John O’Brien)