Sweden's Myhrer wins men's slalom gold as favourites ski out

Phil Brown top Canadian finisher in 22nd

Sweden's Myhrer wins men's slalom gold as favourites ski out
Sweden's Andre Myhrer won gold in men's slalom at the Yongpyong Alpine Centre during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games. © Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP/Getty Images

By Graham Dunbar, The Associated Press

With the favourites failing to finish the race, Swedish skier Andre Myhrer won the Olympic gold medal in men's slalom on Thursday in South Korea.

Myhrer watched as first-run leader Henrik Kristoffersen of Norway, holding a 0.21-second advantage, skied out early in the second run. Marcel Hirscher of Austria, this season's top slalom skier, failed to even finish the first run.

The 35-year-old Myhrer finished 0.34 seconds ahead of Ramon Zenhaeusern of Switzerland, who took an unexpected silver medal. The tallest man in the race at 6-foot-7 (2 metres) threw his ski poles in the air after seeing he had taken the lead before Myhrer started.

Bronze medallist Michael Matt of Austria was 0.67 behind Myhrer's two-run time of 1 minute, 38.99 seconds. Matt's brother Mario won gold four years ago.

Toronto's Phil Brown was Canada's top finisher in 22nd, 2.95 seconds off the pace. Calgary's Erik Read finished 29th.

Myhrer added gold to his bronze medal from the 2010 Vancouver Olympic slalom. He is the second 35-year-old man to take Alpine gold at the Pyeongchang Games after Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway won the downhill.

Hirscher went out midway through the first run in his quest for a third gold medal at the Pyeongchang Olympics. He also won the combined event and the giant slalom.

Watching both Hirscher and Kristoffersen ski out was a huge surprise. They have dominated the World Cup circuit, completing every slalom race. Hirscher came to South Korea with six wins in eight races and Kristoffersen was on the podium for all eight.

"It's better to have tried and failed than never to have tried at all," Kristoffersen said after Thursday's race.

Myhrer is the oldest Olympic medallist in slalom, taking the record Mario Matt set four years ago.

Victory Thursday is a remarkable turnaround for Myhrer after he left the 2014 Sochi Olympics furious after giving up his chance at a medal on a difficult course.

For the second straight Olympic slalom, Myhrer was second-fastest in the first run. But four years ago he failed to finish the second-run with gates set by the father of Ivica Kostelic, the four-time Olympic medallist from Croatia.

Myhrer criticized the course designed by Ante Kostelic, who was famous for his unorthodox series of gates which tricked several medal contenders in Sochi.

On Thursday, Hirscher went out on a first-run course set by an Austrian coach. An Italian team coach set the second run and its best medal hope, Manfred Moelgg, dropped from fourth to 12th.

A total of 54 skiers in the 106-man lineup failed to finish the first run.

Among the early exits, Dominic Demschar of Australia failed to get through the first gate by straddling with one ski either side of the post.

Two-time world champion Jean-Baptiste Grange of France lost a ski in a crash, and Casper Dyrbye Naested of Denmark came into the finish area on one ski.

Two North Korean skiers wearing bib Nos. 107 and 108, Kang Song Il and Choe Myong Gwang, earned a second run by completing the morning course more than 20 seconds behind Kristoffersen as the slowest finishers.

Clouds shrouded much of the second run after morning sunshine kept temperatures at about minus-9 degrees Celsius in the finish area. A low sun behind the first-leg racers cast long shadows down the hill.

With files from CBC Sports