Hirscher in giant slalom pole, eyes second gold
PYEONGCHANG (AFP)- Austrian Marcel Hirscher was in pole position to claim a second Olympic gold of the Pyeongchang Games after scorching the first leg of the men’s giant slalom on Sunday.
Hirscher, who finally won an individual gold in the alpine combined on Tuesday after dominating the World Cup for the last six years, clocked 1min 08.27sec down the Rainbow 1 course in Yongpyong Alpine Centre.
The 28-year-old, a six-time consecutive World Cup overal champion, showed none of the nerves that afflicted American Mikaela Shiffrin in her failed attempt to defend her slalom title after winning the giant slalom the previous day.
“I’m fine!” beamed Hirscher after laying down a near-faultless run on a course that saw many other racers come unstuck on a tricky, turny run-in to the finish line.
France’s reigning world GS champion Alexis Pinturault, who claimed silver behind Hirscher in the combined, was second fastest, 0.63sec off the Austrian, while world bronze medallist Leif Kristian Netvold-Haugen was third, at 0.66.
“There’s a movement on the piste where I didn’t think it took off, so I went a little off the line,” Pinturault said.
“Now it’s just a question of giving everything in the second leg. But one thing for sure is that Marcel is well in front.”
Unheralded Italian Riccardo Tonetti (+0.75) was fourth ahead of Pinturault’s teammates Matthieu Faivre (+0.79) and Thomas Fanara (+0.95).
Combined bronze medallist Victor Muffat-Jeandet was in 10th, at 1.17sec.
– Ligety shocker –
Defending Olympic champion Ted Ligety, however, had a shocker.
After failing to finish the super-G here, the 33-year-old American laboured down the course in his bid to become the oldest Olympic medallist in the event, eventually coming in a massive 2.44sec behind Hirscher.
“It ran a lot easier than I anticipated, but I just didn’t attack the way I should have or could have,” said Ligety, who stormed to a shock first Olympic gold in the combined in Turin in 2006, before he had even won on the World Cup circuit.
That victory came three weeks after Turin, when he won a giant slalom at Yongpyong. He hasn’t raced there since.
“My goal was definitely to be challenging for a medal here, it was within my range, but I’m well out of it now,” he said.
“I was really surprised by the time. It didn’t feel like I crushed it, but it didn’t feel two-and-a-half second bad.
“Hirscher crushed it, he’s been good all year and that’s no surprise.
“For me I’m out of it. Maybe if we get some good wind gusts this afternoon and I get a nice tailwind and those guys get a headwind, something funky happens, maybe I have a hope and a prayer. But if it’s a normal, fair race then it’s way too big of a detriment to climb out of.”