'Stupid question gone now'
Austrian ski ace Hirscher bags elusive Olympic gold after years of heartache
Marcel Hirscher underlined his status as the best skier of his generation with a first, long-overdue Olympic gold in the alpine combined event in Pyeongchang, South Korea yesterday.
"Everyone's been saying, 'Nice career, but an Olympic gold medal is still missing'. This is perfect, unbelievable," said the Austrian, who has won an unprecedented six consecutive World Cup overall titles on the back of 55 victories on the circuit.
But, his Olympic history is more patchy: twice fourth in the giant slalom and a fifth in the 2010 slalom before grabbing silver in Sochi four years ago, leading to questions about his real legacy.
"This stupid question has now gone away, if I'm thinking that my career is perfect without a gold medal, now this question is zzz, deleted," he said.
"I'm not travelling home tomorrow, but if I wished to I could because I have my big goal and I reached it. In Austria, everyone's expecting that I'm going to win a gold medal at least once.
"I'm super, super happy, I didn't expect to win this in the combined."
Hirscher, 28, made the most of a shortened opening downhill course on which the jumps were largely eliminated.
It was the perfect slope for the Austrian, and his 12th-fastest time set him up perfectly for the slalom.
"It was an amazing downhill, maybe my best downhill ever. I killed it," Hirscher said.
"The shorter the downhill the better for the technical guys".
Everyone’s been saying, ‘Nice career, but an Olympic gold medal is still missing’. This is perfect, unbelievable.Austrian alpine ski racer Marcel Hirscher
He then made no mistake in the slalom, a discipline he has dominated in the World Cup this season with six victories.
Hirscher charged down with the fastest time to give him an unassailable lead over France's Alexis Pinturault, who finished in second ahead of teammate Victor Muffat-Jeandet.
"The slalom course was very aggressive, really hard to gain speed and find the right line," Hirscher said.
"Even for us slalom skiers, it was not easy to find the right line."
Hirscher said that he never expected the victory.
"No, there are so many things that have to come together to win a race," he said.
In the women's halfpipe snowboarding, American teenager Chloe Kim snatched a stunning gold medal on her Olympic debut.
Born in the United States to Korean parents, Kim burst into tears as the enormity of her achievement sunk in.
The 17-year-old, who has melted the hearts of home fans in Pyeongchang thanks to her ever-ready smile and Korean heritage, justified her status as the hot favourite with an eye-popping top score of 98.25.
China's Liu Jiayu claimed silver with a score of 89.75 points and American Arielle Gold the bronze four points further back.
Meanwhile, Japan's Kei Saito checked out of the athletes' village and vowed to clear his name after testing positive for acetazolamide, an unauthorised diuretic which can be used to mask performance-enhancing drugs.
"I want to fight to prove my innocence because I don't remember (taking the drug) and it's incomprehensible," Saito said in a statement.
Saito, a human biology student whose sister Hitomi is also competing in Pyeongchang, arrived at the athletes village on Feb 4.
He was woken up at 2am the following morning by doping testers who took two samples. Both samples tested positive.
Saito was summoned before a CAS tribunal on Monday and suspended from the Games pending a full investigation. - AFP