BEAVER CREEK, Colorado (Reuters) - The mighty Austrians have dominated the medal table at the alpine ski world championships and Marcel Hirscher is favored to add yet another gold as defending champion in the men’s slalom on Sunday.
The three-times overall World Cup champion has already shown his liking for the plunging slopes at Beaver Creek Mountain where he will bid to retain the title he claimed in Schladming two years ago.
Hirscher has mined gold in the super combined and team events, along with a silver in the giant slalom on Friday, and will be aiming to leave the snow of Colorado with the seventh world championship medal of his career.
Widely considered the best skier of his generation, the Austrian says he has already achieved the objectives he set for himself at these world championships, so victory in the concluding slalom would be an added bonus.
“My plans for these championships were, in the best case, to catch one medal, it doesn’t matter which color,” Hirscher said after clinching the combined title on Sunday.
“So I reached my goals and everything that happens now is just super good.”
Having since added another gold and a silver, Hirscher said that he was “super happy with everything” he has achieved at Beaver Creek where the Austrian team has piled up a total of nine medals with two more events to come.
While Hirscher will be the headliner and title favorite on Sunday, there are several other contenders, including Germany’s Felix Neureuther, Olympic champion Mario Matt of Austria, Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen and France’s Alexis Pinturault.
Neureuther won World Cup slalom events this season in Madonna di Campiglio and Wengen and has finished on the podium in seven of eight races.
”It will be a fascinating slalom, I can promise you,“ said Hirscher. ”Felix and myself, we have won twice this season but all the other slaloms were won by different people so there will be a lot of favorites.
”I’ve been training and racing at this altitude for two weeks and that takes a lot of energy. But I’ve been fighting very hard.
“I think I’ll be able to keep fighting hard for the slalom on Sunday,” said the Austrian, who is bidding to become the first man to claim successive slalom world titles since Swede Ingemar Stenmark won three in a row -- in 1978, 1980 and 1982.
Editing by Gene Cherry