Super Mario saves best to last for slalom gold

Sat Feb 22, 2014 2:26pm EST
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By Martyn Herman

ROSA KHUTOR, Russia (Reuters) - Two generations collided on a treacherous Russian slalom slope on Saturday with Austrian Mario Matt fighting off two young guns to become the oldest winner of an Olympic Alpine skiing gold.

With favorites careering off in all directions from a rutted course resembling a battlefield the 34-year-old former world champion used every ounce of his experience to edge out team mate Marcel Hirscher, 10 years his junior, by 0.28 seconds.

Norway's Henrik Kristoffersen also snapped at Matt's heels during a floodlit second run which five of the last 10 down failed to finish, the 19-year-old taking a bronze to become the youngest man to win an Alpine skiing Olympic medal.

As Matt celebrated a glorious finale to an all-too-brief Olympic career, some of the other favorites were chuntering about the 64-gate course set by Croatian Ante Kostelic.

American Ted Ligety was sixth after the first run which Matt won by 0.45 seconds from Swede Andre Myhrer, but lurched out in his later run as the DNF's piled up on the scoreboard.

"The snow's just really bad and Ante set a really difficult, typical Ante course set which is borderline unsportsmanlike to set those kinds of course in these kind of hills," said giant slalom champion Ligety as feelings ran high on the last day of Alpine competition at the Games.

Matt also questioned the set-up, saying he had never seen so much mayhem, but said he had just "got to grips with it".

Incredibly for a man boasting two slalom world titles and 14 World Cup victories in the discipline his only previous Olympic experience came eight years ago in Turin when he failed to even finish a leg in the race.   Continued...

Austria's Mario Matt skis to finish first during the second run of the men's alpine skiing slalom event at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center February 22, 2014. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich