Asked how often he had been questioned about whether he would ever win at the Olympics, Hirscher answered, “I mean, every day, but now it’s over.”
Hirscher’s victory came on a windblown day when he unexpectedly finished in 12th place in the morning downhill portion, which is not his strength. His specialty is the slalom and giant slalom events. But the gusting conditions had forced officials to shorten the downhill course, which benefited Hirscher because the downhill specialists did not have as long a distance to build a bigger lead on those that are more accomplished at slalom.
Then, in the afternoon slalom stage, Hirscher was at his finest, vastly outperforming the field in the final 150 yards, where the racecourse became considerably steeper.
And so the gap in Hirscher’s splendid racing résumé was filled, alleviating much of the pressure Hirscher was feeling at these Olympics, which he has called his last. Though just 28 years old, he has said he does not expect to be racing by 2022. But he could now win three gold medals at Pyeongchang.
Hirscher’s victory was also the 115th Olympic Alpine medal for an Austrian skier, the most by any nation in any sport at the Winter Games.
Ligety, a two-time Olympic champion who once dominated Hirscher in the giant slalom, was fifth on Tuesday, a notable result given that injuries have limited his ability to race in the last two seasons. Ligety seemed pleased to see his rival realize a milestone achievement.
“He didn’t need it for people to know what an amazing skier he is,” Ligety said. “But, of course, you want to win at every level.”