Saturday, February 22, 2014

Mario Matt Wins Slalom Gold

Austrian veteran Mario Matt caused a sensation today, winning the men's slalom and taking his first Olympic medal at the age of 34 in front of favourite Marcel Hirscher.
Matt, a two-time slalom world champion, proved unbeatable over two runs, finishing with a combined time of 1min 41.84sec to close the alpine skiing competitions at the Sochi Games.
His compatriot Hirscher, the reigning world champion, finished second at 0.28sec, which young Norwegian sensation Henrik Kristoffersen taking bronze at 0.83sec.
The medals for Matt and Hirscher gave Austria four in the past two nights; Austria’s Marlies Schild and Kathrin Zettel finished second and third behind Mikaela Shiffrin in the women’s slalom yesterday.
Mario Matt (AUT) became the oldest Olympic alpine skiing champion by winning a dramatic men's slalom on Saturday night at Rosa Khutor Alpine Centre.
The 34-year-old 2001 slalom world champion finished ahead of 2013 world champion and pre-race favourite Marcel Hirscher (AUT) in an Austrian one-two, with Henrik Kristoffersen (NOR) third. In a nice piece of symmetry, the 19-year-old Norwegian became the youngest ever Olympic alpine skiing medal winner.
Matt, who had a 0.45 second advantage on the field after the first run, watched five of his seven closest finishers fail to finish the course, including Alexis Pinturault (FRA), Felix Neuruether (GER) and Ted Ligety (USA).
By the time Matt reached the start gates he had a 1.28 second buffer on Hirscher, the winner of two world cup slalom races this season. The elder statesman of the Austrian team used all of his experience to stay on his skis and finish in a combined time of 1 minute and 41.84 seconds, 0.28 seconds ahead of Hirscher.
Matt, who is 34 years and 319 days old, overtook Kjetil Andre Aamodt's (NOR) record of 34 years and 169 days when he won the men's super G at the 2006 Games.
At 19 years and 235 days old, Kristoffersen claimed the youngest medal winner mantle from Alfred Matt (AUT), who was 19 years old and 282 days when he took bronze in the men's slalom in the 1968 Games.

The second run featured another devilish Ante Kostelic course set – the Croatian coach and Ivica's father. As he had after his father’s combined slalom course was criticized, Ivica Kostelic defended the set. "We will hear a lot about this course", he said. "Even if it is negative, it was a spectacle for spectators. At the Olympic Games the course should be challenging. The guys on the podium deserve to be there. Skiers who train in tough conditions appreciate hard courses. They train hard and appreciate conditions like this. … There are always many critics because there are few of them that are good. The winners that are here are not here accidentally".

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