Olympic gold for Hirscher, fi­nally

Aus­trian ski­ing su­per­star ends long wait

Global Times - - Pyeongchang2018 -

Aus­trian star Mar­cel Hirscher fi­nally bagged Olympic gold when he pro­duced a bril­liant slalom run to storm to a dom­i­nant vic­tory in the men’s alpine com­bined on Tues­day.

Alexis Pin­tu­rault claimed sil­ver for France with his team­mate Vic­tor Muf­fat-Je­an­det tak­ing an as­ton­ish­ing bronze af­ter fin­ish­ing 29th-fastest in the open­ing down­hill.

Hirscher, 28, has been the out­stand­ing skier in the World Cup in re­cent years, his 55 ca­reer wins the bedrock of a star­tling six con­sec­u­tive over­all crys­tal globes.

Al­ready guar­an­teed to go down in alpine his­tory as one of the best skiers of all time, Hirscher had said he was af­ter an “amaz­ing” Olympic gold to cap his ca­reer, his pre­vi­ous best a slalom sil­ver from Sochi four years ago.

But he had also played down his ex­pec­ta­tions in the com­bined fol­low­ing a cou­ple of medi­ocre down­hill train­ing runs.

There was to be no mess­ing on a down­hill course short­ened be­cause of blus­tery winds, how­ever, and the canny Aus­trian took full ad­van­tage of the ab­bre­vi­ated run to fin­ish an im­pres­sive 12th-fastest, 1.32 sec­onds off Ger­man Thomas Dressen’s lead time.

Come the slalom, a dis­ci­pline in which he has won six times this sea­son on the World Cup cir­cuit, Aus­tria’s fa­vorite sport­ing son stepped up to the gate and promptly de­liv­ered the fastest time of 45.96 sec­onds.

It was an ag­gres­sive yet mea­sured piece of ski­ing that gave him a com­bined time of 2 min­utes 06.52 sec­onds, 0.23 sec­onds ahead of Pin­tu­rault, with Muf­fat-Je­an­det at 1.02 sec­onds.

“I was the fa­vorite af­ter the down­hill,” said Pin­tu­rault, who was 10th-fastest in the speed event and started his slalom with a 0.28-se­cond lead over Hirscher. “But af­ter what Mar­cel has shown since the start of the sea­son, es­pe­cially in slalom, it was very tough for me to be able to come close.”

“I’m just very happy,” said Pin­tu­rault, win­ner of Bormio’s World Cup com­bined in De­cem­ber. “He was just stronger than me to­day.”

Muf­fat-Je­an­det laid down a slalom run just one-hun­dredth of a se­cond slower than Hirscher, pay­ing the price for a big mis­take on the top third of the down­hill.

“I was so an­noyed by the down­hill,” he said. “But at the end of the day I stayed very fo­cused. I al­ways be­lieved in it.”

Aus­trian slalom spe­cial­ist Marco Sch­warz was fourth, one place ahead of Amer­i­can Ted Ligety, who was seek­ing a third Olympic gold medal hav­ing won the com­bined back in Turin in 2006.

The Nor­we­gian threat pe­tered out dis­ap­point­ingly de­spite two-time for­mer world com­bined cham­pion Ak­sel Lund Svin­dal fin­ish­ing sec­ond­fastest in the down­hill.

Svin­dal, 35, was a non-starter in the slalom, while team­mate Kjetil Jan­srud, fourth-fastest in the down­hill, even­tu­ally came in sev­enth, 2.15 sec­onds off the pace and one place be­hind a third French­man, Thomas Mer­mil­lod Blondin.

Among the top eight, Aus­trian pair Vin­cent Kriech­mayr and reign­ing Olympic down­hill cham­pion Matthias Mayer, along with Ital­ian duo Do­minik Paris and Pe­ter Fill, all failed to fin­ish the slalom course.

Photo: VCG

Mar­cel Hirscher of Aus­tria com­petes in the alpine ski­ing men’s com­bined on Tues­day in the Pyeongchang Win­ter Olympics.

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