Pyeongchang (South Korea) (AFP) – Marcel Hirscher underlined his status as the best skier of his generation with a first, long-overdue Olympic gold in the alpine combined Tuesday.
“Everyone’s been saying, ‘Nice career, but an Olympic gold medal is still missing’. This is perfect, unbelievable,” said Hirscher, who has won an unprecedented six consecutive World Cup overall titles on the back of 55 victories on the circuit.
But his Olympic history is more patchy: twice fourth in the giant slalom and a fifth in the 2010 slalom before grabbing silver in Sochi, leading to questions about his real legacy.
“This stupid question has now gone away, if I’m thinking that my career is perfect without a gold medal, now this question is zzz, deleted,” he said.
“I’m not travelling home tomorrow, but if I wished to I could because I have my big goal and I reached it.
“In Austria everyone’s expecting that I’m going to win a gold medal at least once.
“I’m super, super happy, I didn’t expect to win this in the combined.”
Hirscher, 28, made the most of a shortened opening downhill course on which the jumps were largely eliminated.
It was the perfect slope for the Austrian, and his 12th fastest time set him up perfectly for the slalom.
“It was an amazing downhill, maybe my best downhill ever. I killed it,” Hirscher said. “The shorter the downhill the better for the technical guys!”
He then made no mistake in the slalom, a discipline he has dominated in the World Cup this season with six victories.
– Aggressive slalom –
Hirscher charged down with the fastest time to give him an unassailable lead over France’s Alexis Pinturault.
“The slalom course was very aggressive, really hard to gain speed and find the right line,” Hirscher said.
“Even for us slalom skiers, it was not easy to find the right line.”
Hirscher said he never expected the victory. “No, there are so many things that have to come together to win a race.”
Silver medallist Pinturault was followed home by teammate Victor Muffat-Jeandet in the country’s first podium showing in the combined since Henri Oreiller (gold) and James Couttet (bronze) in 1948.
“We are not competing for this kind of result or thinking of history,” Pinturault said of the 70-year gap in combined medals.
“It’s something good that this really old Olympic record has come down, but it was not the goal when we were at the start.”
Pinturault, who has won the last two World Cup combined titles, added: “Marcel is really strong in slalom, we knew it since the beginning of the year, he’s actually really unbeatable in this discipline this year.
“So I knew that it’s going to be difficult, tight, and I had to make my best to make anything.”
Bronze medallist Muffat-Jeandet produced a startling slalom run just one-hundredth of a second slower than Hirscher after a disastrous downhill when he finished 29th fastest.
“My day is crazy, I have no more emotion, I’m completely flat,” he admitted.
“I was very disppointed about the downhill. The time between downhill and slalom was pretty short, so I went straight to slalom mode but a little too late.
“You have to do two good runs, it’s not possible to come back with one bad run.”