Austrian slalom specialist Marcel Hirscher turned in the fastest run during the second leg of the men’s Alpine combined event at the Jeongseon Alpine Centre on Tuesday 13 February at PyeongChang 2018.
The experienced Hirscher overtook a quality field and in doing so, he finally collected a much-desired gold medal to go with the silver he won at Sochi 2014.
The Alpine combined event calls on skiers to perform a fast-downhill run, followed by a more technical slalom, and is a test of all-round Alpine mastery.
At the completion of the downhill leg, Hirscher was handily placed in 12th, just 1.32 seconds adrift of the quickest time set by Germany’s Thomas Dressen.
With a combined time of 2 minutes 6.52 seconds, Hirscher eventually finished 0.23 seconds quicker than France’s Alexis Pinturault, and 1.02 seconds ahead of third-placed and fellow Frenchman Victor Muffat-Jeandet, the early leader in the second stanza.
Hirscher’s all-round skills have delivered six successive overall World Cup titles – with a seventh currently within his grasp - and most believed the gold medal was his to lose. The 28-year-old didn’t disappoint.
Finishing in fourth position overall was Austrian Marco Schwarz, a triple gold medal winner at the Youth Olympic Games at Innsbruck 2012.
‘The perfect finish’
Hirscher admitted he felt ‘unbelievable’ to finally win gold at an Olympic Winter Games, but that he had to reach new heights to do so.
He said: “It was an amazing downhill, I think my best ever. I started in the slalom run and managed to find the right line and a pretty close position to Alex [Pinturault], so I'm super happy with today's result.
“It doesn’t feel real for now, but it’s dream coming true. All the people expected me to win a gold medal, especially in Austria, my home country, where skiing is big. Everyone is saying, 'Nice career, but an Olympic gold medal is still missing'. This is perfect, unbelievable.”
French double haul
“It's something really special,” said 26-year-old Pinturault of his podium finish. “Getting a silver medal is something unbelievable. To be here is already something really nice, I'm really proud to be racing for my country. Getting a medal, though, it's like a dream come true.”
"It was really important for me to be able to compete against the best after the downhill, starting close and pushing hard to make the slalom a difference. I come more from the technique side, so I could make a difference in the slalom.”
Muffat-Jeandet said: “It feel crazy. I think I will enjoy it more tomorrow and share with Alex [Pinturault], we're always together in the room.” The 28-year-old admits that while he was happy with bronze, he was disappointed it wasn’t better.
“My downhill wasn't so good, I don't understand why,” he said. “The day is so weird, because I had really good downhill training and I was focused on that, but it didn’t go as well as I hoped.”