Austria's Marcel Hirscher captures 1st Olympic gold in alpine combined

Veteran vaults from 12th to top in slalom run

Austria's Marcel Hirscher captures 1st Olympic gold in alpine combined
Thomas Dressen of Germany heads into the slalom portion of the alpine combined event in first place. © Alexis Boichard/Agence Zoom/Getty Images

By The Associated Press

Marcel Hirscher of Austria has won the men's alpine combined event, the first career Olympic gold medal for one of skiing's greats.

Hirscher used his elite skills in the slalom leg to rise from 12th place after the opening run of downhill.

His combined two-run time was 0.23 seconds faster than silver medallist Alexis Pinturault of France. Another Frenchman, Victor Muffat-Jeandet, took bronze, 1.02 behind Hirscher.

The fastest downhill racer, Thomas Dressen of Germany, dropped to ninth place, trailing Hirscher by 2.44. Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway did not even bother to race the slalom despite placing second in downhill.

Hirscher has a record six overall World Cup titles as the season's best all-round skier, and four career world championships gold medals.

But he had taken just a silver medal — in slalom at the 2014 Sochi Olympics — from two previous Winter Games.

Weather impacts event

Canada's Manuel Osborne-Paradis missed the second gate in the downhill and cruised down the rest of the course. The veteran skier from Invermere, B.C., skier didn't finish his run, using the race as an opportunity to get a sneak preview of the course for the upcoming men's downhill event.

VIDEO | Manuel Osborne-Paradis scopes out downhill course

Swirling wind was again a factor despite blue skies and sunshine in Jeongseon, where the men's downhill race was postponed on Sunday. The race-time temperature was minus-11 degrees Celsius.

Gusts higher up the mountain forced organizers to lower the downhill start, cutting about 20 seconds of skiing from the downhill portion of the combined. Racers topped 120 km/h but were guided to a safer line cresting the jumps.

Many expect Tuesday's race to be an Olympic farewell for combined, which has fallen out of favour with the rise in head-to-head parallel racing formats.

Combined was the original event at Alpine skiing's Olympic debut in 1936. Traditionalists like the mix of skills, but racers are now so specialized that those good at one discipline tend not to be competitive at the other.

Hirscher almost never races World Cup downhills. Svindal, a two-time world champion in combined, has not skied a competitive slalom run in two years.

With files from CBC Sports