The final day of racing at the 2019 Word Championships in Are, Sweden, did not disappoint as the Austrian men proved why they have been the gold standard on the World Cup for so many years, sweeping the podium in the men’s slalom.
With warm temperatures challenging athletes and course crews over the last week, gold medalist Marcel Hirscher was also battling an illness that almost forced him to sit out Friday’s giant slalom, where he took silver behind Norwegian rival, Henrik Kristoffersen. Sunday’s weather was a little more favorable with the snow surface holding up well enough for some fast and exciting racing in both runs.
Not the most challenging slalom hill the men face all year, the Are slope requires an all-out attack if racers are to find themselves at the top of the results sheet. Nobody did this better than Hirscher as the Austrian legend dominated the field to finish 0.65 seconds ahead of silver medalist Michael Matt. France’s Alexis Pinturault sat in second after the first run and was on his way to the leader’s chair before a costly mistake on the flat approaching the finish saw him slide back and eventually finish in fourth place. Marco Schwarz rounded out the Austrian trifecta in third, 0.76 seconds behind Hirscher.
With Sunday’s gold, Hirscher has now matched Swedish legend, Ingemar Stenmark, for most World Championship slalom titles with three and tied Austrian great, Toni Sailer, with seven career World and Olympic titles.
“The biggest emotion is that the pressure has gone away from my shoulders,” Hirscher explained. “They are feeling more light than before these World Championships. I want to thank my whole team, the last four days were definitely really, really not the easiest ones. I think we all worked great together and it is a team advantage. I am more healthy than, for example, four days ago but I think for the race it was pretty ok. Now, I am more tired than usual. That is why you see less emotions and less power in all my interviews and photos, I’m just done but please believe me super, super happy with these two medals and it really means a lot to me. Every year I am getting older and everybody is expecting that things are working even better so it’s good to stay on this course.”
At only 29, Hirscher sees himself as the veteran of the Austrian squad with Matt and Schwarz, four and six years his junior, respectively.
“The last three years, from season to season, they are getting really strong,” he added of his teammates. “They have started already to make a spot for themselves and will make a lot of fun for us in the next years, I’m sure. Those guys are way younger than me and I’m in between the generations of Mario Matt and Michael Matt and they are the new generation.”
Matt’s older brother, Mario, won the World slalom title in Are when the Championships were last held in Sweden in 2007. Michael has been racking up an impressive medal count of his own so far in his career with an Olympic slalom bronze from PyeongChang 2018 as well. Matt’s slalom silver was his second medal of the week to go with his silver from the team event.
“The goal was to achieve an individual medal,” Matt said. “It was really nice to win a medal with the team, in every competition you compete in it’s nice to win a medal, but of course this means more to me. I knew that when Marco was behind me that I had a medal, so for me it was already a relaxed wait, not like last year at the Olympics. For me, I was quite relaxed when I knew silver was the minimum I could win. It’s amazing. I think this is the result of really good work from the coaches and the whole team. I think we’ve never had that before at World Championships, but of course it’s really cool.”
Schwarz was sure he was headed for a fourth-place finish after crossing the line in the second run behind Matt with Pinturault and Hirscher still to go. The 23-year-old captured his third medal of the Championships on Sunday to go with combined bronze and team event silver.
“I’m really, really happy to fly home with three medals,” Schwarz reflected. “Of course, they were a great Championships for me and I’m really happy. When I went through the finish, I was second so I thought that I would end up fourth but Alexis made a mistake, he’s had a great season so far and of course, when I took the bronze medal it’s an amazing feeling. The conditions were pretty good today. The first run had a few bumpy gates and the rest was really good. It was a long time up here so I am ready to go home.”
The United States did not start any racers in the slalom on Sunday. Simon Fournier led the Canadian team in 24th. Trevor Philp and Erik Read did not finish their first runs.
The men now head to Stockholm, Sweden, for a city event on Tuesday, February 19.
- Marcel Hirscher (AUT)- Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Michael Matt (AUT)- Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Marco Schwarz (AUT)- Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Alexis Pinturault (FRA)- Head/Head/Head
- Ramon Zenheusern (SUI)- Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Manuel Feller (AUT)- Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Clement Noel (FRA)- Dynastar/Lange/Look
- Henrik Kristoffersen (NOR)- Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Dave Ryding (GBR)- Dynastar/Lange/Look
- Stefano Gross (ITA)- Voelkl/Dalbello/Marker
For complete FIS results, please click here.