IMPERIOUS Marcel Hirscher blitzed Sunday’s slalom to equal a record seven world golds in an Austrian podium sweep that handed the alpine powerhouse a first title of the world championships in Are.
Wearing bib number three, Hirscher laid down an outstanding first run on the Olympia course that completely outclassed the field and was the bedrock of a comprehensive victory – his third world slalom title after 2013 and 2017, and fifth individual title, two more coming as part of the Austrian squad that won golds in the 2013 and 2015 world team events.
Hirscher, in what he admitted might be his last world championships, timed a combined total of 2min 05.86sec, with Michael Matt taking silver and Marco Schwarz bronze, at 0.65 and 0.76sec respectively.
“Today I think it was really much better than, for example, four days ago,” Hirscher said of his fitness, having competed in the giant slalom (in which he won silver) with a heavy cold.
“I really want to thank my whole team because they made this possible. They worked really hard to bring me here in the starting gate.
“It’s unbelievable. After 2013, 2017 and now 2019, maybe my last world champs, so it’s finally good to have another gold medal.”
His third world slalom title draws him level with compatriot Toni Sailer for a record seven world titles in all events, albeit Sailer’s all coming in individual events in 1956 and 1958.
Hirscher, on track for a record eighth consecutive World Cup overall title this season, is also just the third man to win successive slalom world titles after Sweden’s Ingemar Stenmark (1978-82) and Swiss Rudolf Rominger (1938-39).
“I’m sorry that I’m too young that I’ve never seen Ingemar Stenmark skiing on TV for example, but the name is huge, that’s for sure,” said Hirscher.
The Austrian, with 68 World Cup wins to his name, said he would take some time out at season’s end to mull over when to call it time on his illustrious career.
“It can be,” he said enigmatically when asked whether he might retire at season’s end or after the 2019/20 season.
“Ten more races are awaiting me [this season] so then we’ll see, take a break and things will be way clearer than right now.”
France’s Alexis Pinturault was sat in second after the first run, chasing a third medal of these worlds having snapped up combined gold and giant slalom bronze.
But he fluffed his lines on the second run to eventually finish fourth behind the Austrian triumvirate, almost a second off Hirscher.
“I knew that Alexis was not in the lead,” Hirscher said of his tactics in the second descent.
“So in the first part I tried to push it really, really hard. Then there were two or three gates where it was bumpy, hopefully stay safe there and then into the finish line, another attack.”
Austrians storm Are
Switzerland’s Ramon Zenhaeusern, who was in electric form when winning all four of his head-to-head races as he helped Switzerland win team event gold, was only 12th fastest after the first leg, paying a costly price for a mistake seven turns from the bottom.
But he shot into the most significant early lead with a solid second run, holding that until Matt came down in 2:06.51.
Then came the top three. First down was Schwarz, the combined bronze medallist and part of Austria’s silver medal-winning squad in the team event who shot into second behind Matt.
Pinturault, enjoying a 0.79sec advantage out of the start gate, increased that in the first intermediary as he attacked down the Olympia course.
But that went into the red as he slid badly around one tight turn.
“I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished this week, but gutted not to have made the podium,” he said. “Proud because I raced three event where I was fighting for gold each time.”
All eyes then turned on Hirscher, who had a huge 1.35sec deficit.
The 29-year-old didn’t show any signs of stress, however, staying low and centred as he took the upper section of the course by the scruff of its neck before easing off in the midsection and then turning aggressive once again over the final roll into the finish area.
Zenhaeusern eventually finished a very creditable fifth, with another Austrian, Manuel Feller, in sixth.