Road To The Olympic Games

Hirscher leads Austrian sweep of podium in slalom at ski worlds

Marcel Hirscher led an Austrian clean sweep in the slalom by winning by 0.65 seconds for a record-tying seventh career gold medal at the alpine world championships in Are, Sweden, on Sunday.

Alpine star coasts to victory on strength of big 1st run

Marcel Hirscher, centre, celebrates an Austrian sweep of the podium along with second-placed Michael Matt, left, and third-placed Marco Schwarz at the alpine ski world championships in Are, Sweden, on Sunday. (Marco Trovati/The Associated Press)

If this was to be Marcel Hirscher's last race at the skiing world championships, the Austrian great sure put on a show.

Hirscher produced what he described as one of the best runs of his trophy-laden 12-year career, allowing him to coast to victory in the second leg of the slalom and lead an Austrian 1-2-3 in the final race of the two-week championships.

It was a third world title in the slalom, matching the record of the great Ingemar Stenmark. It was his seventh career gold at the worlds, tying the men's record with compatriot Toni Sailer from the late 1950s.

It might be his last, too.

"It is unbelievable," Hirscher said, somewhat tantalizingly, "after 2013, 2017, now '19, maybe my last world champs, to finally get to have another gold medal."

The Austrians ended up with three medals, with Michael Matt and Marco Schwarz taking silver and bronze, respectively.

WATCH | Hirscher claims slalom gold at world championships: 

Austria's Marchel Hirscher finishes 1st, 2 other countrymen join him on the podium. 2:05

Montreal's Simon Fournier finished 24th to follow up his 30th-place result in Friday's giant slalom event. 

"It was definitely a battle this morning and I think it rewarded everyone that fought through that first course," said Fournier. who was making his world championships debut this week in Sweden.

"It's a great experience overall [to compete at worlds]. It's a big learning experience in terms of a new feel, the different venue where you're expected to perform a little bit more. It's important to fight for everything."

Hirscher keeps getting asked how long he will continue his reign as the most successful male ski racer of this generation. He is on 68 World Cup wins — 18 off the record of Stenmark — and next month could win his eighth straight overall World Cup title.

Add the seven world golds — as part of a collection of nine world medals — and two Olympic gold medals, and Hirscher can retire a happy man. Whenever that may be.

Flawless start

Hirscher destroyed the field with an almost flawless first run that gave him a lead of 0.56 seconds from Alexis Pinturault of France. No other skier was within a second of the lead and Hirscher told Austria's domestic broadcaster, ORF, that it was one of his best ever runs.

That meant Hirscher could be more circumspect in the second leg — especially after a slip from Pinturault toward the end of his run that knocked the Frenchman into third place at the time and out of medal contention — and get down safely.

He did just that, posting only the 25th fastest time for the second leg.

He didn't need to go any quicker.

Hirscher has been suffering with a cold this week. He was second to Henrik Kristoffersen in the giant slalom on Friday, and said after that race he was going straight back to bed to rest up ahead of the slalom.

"[I] want to thank my whole team because they made this possible," Hirscher said. "They worked really hard to bring me here to the starting gate so thanks for that."​

With files from CBC Sports

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