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Xinhua News Agency/PA Images Marcel Hirscher of Austria celebrates after winning the men's giant slalom of alpine skiing at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games.
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'He's the best' - Hirscher becomes most successful skier at 2018 Winter Olympics
The Austrian powered to his second Pyeongchang title by winning the men’s giant slalom.

MARCEL HIRSCHER MASTERED the jitters that have afflicted Mikaela Shiffrin and Lindsey Vonn when he powered to his second Pyeongchang Winter Olympics title on Sunday, becoming the event’s most successful skier so far.

While America’s Shiffrin and Vonn look to recover from defeats, Hirscher hit his groove in the men’s giant slalom, winning by an impressive 1.27 seconds — five days after his debut Olympic victory in the combined.

Norway’s Oystein Braaten proved untouchable in the men’s freestyle skiing slopestyle as the 16-day Games hit the halfway point, with medals in biathlon, aerials and speed skating still to come on Sunday. Norway also won the 4x10km men’s cross country relay to reach nine gold medals and draw level with Germany at the top of medals table.

It has been a long wait for Games gold for Hirscher, who is the dominant figure of World Cup racing but whose best previous Olympic result was slalom silver in 2014.

However, the Austrian has flourished in South Korea. He said his years of success on the World Cup circuit proved vital as he beat Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen and France’s Alexis Pinturault into second and third place.

“After the first run I thought to myself that the confidence is here and speed is here and I can win the race. There’s always a mind game between the first and second runs, but the years of experience helped me,” the 28-year-old Hirscher said. His coach Michael Pircher said simply: “Right now he’s the best.”

While Hirscher savoured his second victory, Shiffrin was processing her defeat in the women’s slalom, her pet event, after vomiting with nerves at the start gate.

“It’s not necessarily the medallists who get the most out of the Olympics,” the American wrote in a soul-searching statement posted on social media. “It’s those who are willing to strip down to nothing and bare their soul for their love of the game. That is so much greater than Gold, Silver, or Bronze.”

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Vonn, who finished a disappointing sixth in Saturday’s super-G, also said she was “hurt” by accusations online that she was anti-American, following her criticism of US President Donald Trump.

“That’s so far from the truth. I’m the most American person you will ever find,” said Vonn, who was fastest in official training for Wednesday’s women’s downhill.

A torrid Games for Russia, banned over doping but with 168 athletes competing as neutrals, improved as they won their third Pyeongchang silver, in the cross-country relay. They were denied gold by the masterful Norwegian skiers, who seized the lead through Simen Hegstad Krueger in the third leg before Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo sealed victory.

– © AFP 2018

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