Austrian relief as Hirscher helps bag first gold
- Published: 13/02/2013 at 01:44 AM
- Online news:
Slalom star Marcel Hirscher admitted to feeling relief after leading Austria to gold in the world championships team event on Tuesday with a convincing 4-0 victory over Sweden in the final.
Austria's Michaela Kirchgasser (C) celebrates with Marcel Hirscher (L) during the team event at the 2013 Ski World Championships in Schladming, Austria on February 12, 2013. Austrian beat Sweden to win gold.
It was a much-needed tonic for the host nation which had garnered just two bronze medals after the opening six events.
"It wasn't easy, the whole country was watching the Austrian team," Hirscher said of the pressure he and his teammates had been under from a ski-mad country demanding medals.
"We tried to give 100 percent and I think all of us did a pretty good job. Everyone's celebrating and that's perfect."
However, there were a raft of medal winners and big names missing from the team event, even though men's slalom favourite Hirscher and women's super-combined gold medallist Maria Hoefl-Riesch did choose to compete.
It was a dramatic, high-octane spectacle for a raucous, flag-waving, horn-blowing, bell-ringing crowd of 20,000, four mixed-sex parallel slaloms raced between 15 teams in a quick-fire, knock-out format.
The parallel slalom down the brightly flood-lit Planai course featured blue and red gates on either side, with matching dye sprayed in crescents onto the snow to help the racers, a visual feast for ski lovers.
First up for Austria in the final was Nicole Hosp, who opened Austria's medal count here with a super-combined bronze last week. Any threat was nullified when her opponent Maria Pietilae-Holmner skied out.
Then came Hirscher, the defending World Cup overall champion, who scorched down the icy slope in 19.08sec to beat Mattias Hargin and hand his team a 2-0 lead.
Michaela Kirchgasser trumped Frida Hansdotter to send the crowd wild with the gold in the bag, while Philipp Schoedrghofer was awarded victory in his tie after Andre Myhrer had skidded into his path.
"It's an important victory, a team victory that launches us perfectly into the technical events coming up over the next few days," Kirchgasser said of the giant slalom and slalom races that run from Thursday through Sunday.
Sweden's Hargin added: "It's really nice to win a medal, and it was a fun evening. It's a special event to compete with your teammates.
"The snow conditions are pretty good and it'll be a great slalom on Sunday for us men."
Germany stole bronze from Canada thanks to Fritz Dopfer's victory by 0.01sec over Philip Brown in the fourth race of their third-place run-off.
After Lena Duerr had beaten Brittany Phelan, Michael Janyk pulled one back for Canada with a close-fought win over Felix Neureuther. Erin Mielzynski then edged Hoefl-Riesch, but Dopfer saved the day with his run.
Neureuther, Germany's big hope for the men's individual slalom was given an early scare when Croatian Filip Zubcic took him out in the opening round.
The Croat lost his edge and slid with full force into the German, who lost a ski in the impact and was left nursing a sore right knee, hardly the preparation he needed for the worlds-ending slalom on Sunday.
But Neureuther came back to help Germany scrape past defending champions France by four-hundredths of a second in the quarter-finals after Tessa Worley had trumped Hoefl-Riesch and the tie ended 2-2.
Austria racked up a morale-boosting 4-0 victory over Germany in the semi-final, with Lena Duerr and Hoefl-Riesch both skiing out as Hirscher and Schoerghofer ruled the roost over Neureuther and Dopfer.
Sweden had dispatched Canada, for whom Janyk again performed well to send out a warning that the men's slalom would not be all about Hirscher.
About the author
- Writer: AFP
Position: News agency