Idol of a nation
Tipped for the top at an early age, Marcel Hirscher has won almost everything there is to win since making his World Cup debut in 2007, with one notable exception. A six-time world championship gold medallist and the only skier ever to have won six overall FIS World Cup titles in a row, the prolific Austrian is still waiting for a first Olympic title, having taken silver in the slalom at Sochi 2014.
Destined for greatness
Introduced to the slopes at the age of two by his father, the head of a local ski school, Marcel Hirscher was considered one of Austria’s most exciting young skiers during his childhood.
He began to fulfil that promise in winning five medals (three of them gold) at the 2008 FIS Alpine Junior World Ski Championships. In 2010, the then 20-year-old made his Olympic debut in Vancouver, where he finished fourth in the giant slalom and fifth in the slalom.
Crystal globe collector
Hirscher recorded his first FIS Alpine Ski World Cup victories in slalom and giant slalom in the 2010/11 campaign. The following season he embarked on an unprecedented run of success, winning the first of six consecutive big crystal globes.
The first man to achieve the feat, Hirscher has now moved past the great Marc Girardelli (the winner of five overall titles, but not consecutively) as the most successful skier in the competition’s history. In the meantime, the Austrian has also collected four crystal globes apiece in the slalom and the giant slalom.
Hirscher went in search of his first individual gold medal on home snow at the 2013 World Championships in Schladming, where he won team gold and finished second in the giant slalom before going for glory in the slalom two days later.
Urged on by 40,000 vociferous fans who had yet to see an Austrian win individual gold at the championships, he moved into the lead with a flowing first run and held on to it on a solid second outing to secure the world title ahead of Felix Neureuther of Germany and Austria’s Mario Matt and earn the acclaim of the delighted home crowd.
Silver in Sochi
The Austrian’s bid for Olympic gold at Sochi 2014 got off to a disappointing start when he came in fourth in the giant slalom, an event won by the USA’s Ted Ligety, one of his fiercest rivals. Another opportunity to top the podium came Hirscher’s way in the slalom on the final day of competition. His chance looked to have gone when he placed ninth on the opening run, 1.28 seconds behind leader Matt.
Seemingly out of contention, Hirscher found a new gear on the second run, negotiating an extremely difficult course to post the best time and claim the silver, just 0.28 seconds behind his fellow Austrian.
“Thank goodness that the course was so tricky during the second run, because otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to come back,” he said afterwards. Remarking on the strenuous test faced by the skiers, he added: “We’re looking for an Olympic champion, not a school champion.”
Onwards and upwards
Powerful, precise, technically gifted and a supremely confident skier, Hirscher continued to reign supreme in his two favoured events in the wake of Sochi 2014, amassing more medals at the 2015 World Championships in Vail/Beaver Creek (USA) than any other skier: two golds (in the super combined and team event) and a silver (in the giant slalom).
Two years later, he completed an incredible slalom/giant slalom double at the Worlds in St Moritz (SUI), becoming the first skier to win both titles at the same championships since the great Alberto Tomba in 1996 in Sierra Nevada.
The 28-year-old Austrian marked the start of the 2016/17 season by registering his 40th career win in the slalom in Levi (FIN), and added five more victories during the course of the campaign to move to fifth on the all-time World Cup win list behind Girardelli (46), Tomba (50), Hermann Maier (54) and Ingemar Stenmark (86).
All that remains for him to complete a full set of titles and cement his status as a legend of Alpine skiing is to win Olympic gold, a goal he hopes to achieve at PyeongChang 2018, which he has confirmed will be his last Olympic Winter Games. “It would be great if it happened,” said the insatiable Hirscher. “I’m going to give it a go, and if it works out then it will set the seal on everything.”