Hirscher's amazing race secured an Austrian triple

The gold in giant slalom gave a confidence boost to Henrik Kristoffersen. Marcel Hirscher had a cold and could not match the Norwegian's performance on Friday. On Sunday, Kristoffersen was the second man in the starting gate after Clement Noël opened with a solid run. Shortly thereafter Hirscher, however, wearing bib number three crossed the finish line, 1.70 seconds ahead of Kristoffersen

Alexis Pinturault, gold medalist in the men’s alpine combined who also won bronze in the giant slalom, had bib number four and tied with the Austrian for most of the first run. A mistake in the finish steep had the Frenchman lose 0.56 seconds to Hirscher. Apart from Pinturault, no racer was less than a second behind Hirscher, proving that the Austrian’s first run was extraordinary. Fellow Austrians Marco Schwarz and Michael Matt ended up in third and fourth position, respectively, 1.22 and 1.35 seconds behind Hirscher.

In the second run, the tall Swiss Ramon Zenhäusern and Brit Dave Ryding had their turns sitting in the leader's chair. Ryding advanced from 20thposition in the first run to ninth. Zenhäusern took a massive lead and advanced from 12thto 5th. He was eventually only beat by the top four athletes in Run 1: Schwarz, Matt, Pinturault and Hirscher and would probably have made the podium if he hadn’t made a mistake in his first run, costing him valuable time.

For Ryding this was a day of two halves. A poor first run where he seemed to coast into the finish past the final few gates was followed up with a run that showed what he is truly capable of. If only is a theme that has encapsulated much of this year for him. Ryding acknowledged this on his Instagram post after the race: "9th...A day of two halves.. 1st run stinker, 2nd run charger... It was a dam (sic) tough day. 1 minute 3 seconds slaloms are taxing to say the least." The third fastest time on the second run shows what he is capable of. It is a case of putting two runs together.

Zak Vinter was the only other British racer to make the results and pulled off a great result in placing 37th. Laurie Taylor looked to be on for making the top thirty before he crashed out on run one and Billy Major made it to the second run before crashing out.

Marco Schwarz and Michael Matt had great second runs and it looked as if the podium would be all white and red. Alexis Pinturault was the only one with a chance of preventing an Austrian sweep. He started the second run well, until he made a big mistake, almost slipping off the course, and finally ending up in fourth position.

– The goal was to achieve an individual medal and while it was nice that the team won a medal, this means more to me, said Michael Matt who was also part of the Austrian team that won silver in the alpine team event.

Marcel Hirscher did not make any mistakes. He pushed hard at the start of the 2nd run, gliding through the second part a little easier and finished 0.65 seconds ahead of Matt. Marco Schwarz thus won bronze, Michael Matt silver and slalom king Marcel Hirscher gold, for the third time, making him equal to Ingemar Stenmark. The two are the only male alpine skiers who have won three World Championships titles in slalom.

Hirscher was greeted by the crowd as the champion he is but at the same time, he was not his usual radiant self when receiving the medal.

– I’m healthier than I was four days ago. But I’m more tired than usual, that’s why you see less emotion in my interviews and photos for example. I’m beat, he said, and added:

– But, please believe me, I’m really super happy for these two medals and it means a lot to me because I’m getting older and everyone expects me to be better and better so it’s good to stay this course.

Hirscher has already insinuated that he might not be around on the world stage for much longer and Åre 2019 was, according to him, probably his last World Championships. He also took the time to thank the organizing committee for the hard work in making the Åre 2019 Championships great despite the weather conditions.

– The mixed conditions meant a lot of work so thank you, I think everything worked out perfectly. The positive thing about negative stuff is that you forget it. From Åre 2019 I will remember having a cold, but the rest is all warm memories.

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