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Slalom king Hirscher wins record-equalling seventh world title

Austria's Marcel Hirscher equals record with seventh world title
Austria's Marcel Hirscher equals record with seventh world title AFP

Åre (Sweden) (AFP)

Imperious Marcel Hirscher blitzed Sunday's slalom to equal a record seven world titles in an Austrian podium sweep that handed the alpine powerhouse a first gold of the world championships in Are.

Wearing bib number three, Hirscher laid down an outstanding first run on the Olympia course that completely outclassed the field and was the bedrock of a comprehensive victory -- his third world slalom title after 2013 and 2017.

Hirscher, in what he admitted might be his last world championships, timed a combined total of 2min 05.86sec, with Michael Matt taking silver and Marco Schwarz bronze, at 0.65 and 0.76sec respectively.

"Today I think it was really much better than, for example, four days ago," Hirscher said of his fitness, having competed in the giant slalom (in which he won silver) with a heavy cold.

"I really want to thank my whole team because they made this possible. They worked really hard to bring me here in the starting gate.

"It's unbelievable. After 2013, 2017 and now 2019, maybe my last world champs, so it's finally good to have another gold medal."

His third world slalom title draws him level with compatriot Toni Sailer for a record seven world titles in all events. Hirscher, on track for a record eighth consecutive World Cup overall title this season, is also just the third man to win successive slalom world titles after Sweden's Ingemar Stenmar (1978-82) and Swiss Rudolf Rominger (1938-39).

France's Alexis Pinturault was sat in second after the first run, chasing a third medal of these worlds having snapped up combined gold and giant slalom bronze.

But he fluffed his lines on the second run to eventually finish fourth behind the Austrian triumvirate, almost a second off Hirscher.

"I knew that Alexis was not in the lead," Hirscher said of his tactics in the second descent.

"So in the first part I tried to push it really, really hard. Then there were two or three gates where it was bumpy, hopefully stay safe there and then into the finish line, another attack."

Switzerland's Ramon Zenhaeusern, who was in electric form winning all four of his head-to-head races as he helped Switzerland win team event gold, was only 12th fastest after the first leg, paying a costly price for a mistake seven turns from the bottom.

But he shot into the most significant early lead with a solid second run, holding that until Matt came down in 2:06.51.

Then came the top three. First down was Schwarz, the combined bronze medallist and part of Austria's silver medal-winning squad in the team event who shot into second behind Matt.

Pinturault, enjoying a 0.79sec advantage out of the start gate, increased that in the first intermediary as he attacked down the Olympia course.

But that went into the red as he slid badly around one tight turn, the Frenchman left shaking his head in regret in the finish area.

All eyes then turned on Hirscher, who had a huge 1.35sec deficit.

The 29-year-old didn't show any signs of stress, however, staying low and centred as he took the upper section of the course by the scruff of its neck before easing off in the midsection and then turning aggressive once again over the final roll into the finish area.

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