Saturday , March 24 2018

Gold at last as Hirscher bags combined title – Snow queen Kim dominates women’s halfpipe

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea, Feb 13, (Agencies): Austrian star Marcel Hirscher finally bagged Olympic gold when he produced a brilliant slalom run to storm to a dominant victory in the men’s alpine combined on Tuesday.

Alexis Pinturault claimed silver for France with his team-mate Victor Muffat-Jeandet taking an astonishing bronze after finishing 29th fastest in the opening downhill.

Hirscher, 28, has been the outstanding skier in the World Cup in recent years, his 55 career wins the bedrock of a startling six consecutive overall crystal globes.

Already guaranteed to go down in alpine history as one of the best skiers of all time, Hirscher had said he was after an “amazing” Olympic gold to cap his career, his previous best a slalom silver from Sochi four years ago.

But he had also played down his expectations in the combined following a couple of mediocre downhill training runs.

There was to be no messing on a downhill course shortened because of blustery winds, however, and the canny Austrian took full advantage of the abbreviated run to finish an impressive 12th fastest, 1.32sec off German Thomas Dressen’s lead time.

Come the slalom, a discipline in which he has won six times this season on the World Cup circuit, Austria’s favourite sporting son stepped up to the gate and promptly delivered the fastest time of 45.96sec.

It was an aggressive yet measured piece of skiing that gave him a combined time of 2min 06.52sec, 0.23sec ahead of Pinturault, with Muffat-Jeandet at 1.02sec.

Muffat-Jeandet laid down a slalom run just one-hundredth of a second slower than Hirscher, paying the price for a big mistake on the top third of the downhill.

Austrian slalom specialist Marco Schwarz was fourth, one place ahead of American Ted Ligety, who was seeking a third Olympic gold medal having won the combined back in Torino in 2006.

Chloe Kim’s coronation is complete.

The 17-year-old from Torrance, California, dominated the Olympic women’s halfpipe snowboarding final, soaring to a gold medal four years in the making.

Kim put up a score of 93.75 on the first of her three finals runs and then bettered it with a near-perfect 98.75 on her last run with the gold already well in hand. With members of her family in the stands, including her South Korean grandmother, Kim put on a show that delivered on her considerable pre-Olympic hype.

Liu Jiayu took silver with an 89.75 to become the first Chinese snowboarder to medal at the Olympics.

American Arielle Gold, who pondered retirement last summer, edged teammate and three-time Olympic medalist Kelly Clark for bronze.

Kim’s parents were born in South Korea and moved to the United States, putting their daughter in an interesting position heading into her first Olympics.

While she understands the urge to build a narrative around her that turns her into a connective tissue of sorts between the host country and the one she calls home, it’s one she has politely sidestepped. She views herself as just a kid from Southern California who likes music, the mall, ice cream and, oh, by the way, putting down the kind of gravity-escaping, physics challenging runs that have made her a dominant force in her sport.

Kim would have made the Olympic team with ease four years ago, only to have the calendar get in the way. She was 13 at the time, too young to make the trip to Russia. She entered the quadrennium between the games with the kind of expectations reserved for the Shaun Whites of the snowboarding world. She has exceeded every one.

Standing atop the hill at calm and brilliant Phoenix Snow Park — a stark contrast to the windy mess that turned the women’s slopestyle final into an ugly, borderline unsafe and crash-filled mess 24 hours earlier — Kim looked down at the crowd that included her parents, three sisters, three aunts, two cousins and her grandmother Moon Jung and proceeded to waste little time while turning the final into a global coming-out party.

She drilled her opening set, throwing in a 1080 — basically, three twists high above the pipe — before following it with a pair of flips (or “corks”). Kim celebrated at the end, pumping her fists as “USA!” ‘’USA!” chants rained down. When her score flashed, she clasped her hands atop her head and drank in the moment.

Kim’s teammates made serious bids to give the Americans only their fourth-ever Olympic podium sweep.

Japan’s short-track speedskater Kei Saito, 21, was at the centre of the first doping scandal in Pyeongchang after testing positive for a banned diuretic.

Saito, who has left the athletes’ village, was provisionally suspended pending an investigation. He protested his innocence and vowed to clear his name.

“I want to fight to prove my innocence because I don’t remember (taking the drug) and it’s incomprehensible,” he said in a statement.

While Kim’s brilliant run in the halfpipe stole the show, gold medals also went to Sweden and Norway in cross country skiing, and Italy in short-track speedskating.

Also celebrating gold was Stina Nilsson, who won the women’s cross-country sprint classic for Sweden. In the men’s event, Johannes Klaebo of Norway won gold on his Olympic debut.

Italy got their first gold of the Games through Arianna Fontana in the 500m women’s short-track speedskating. South Korean multi-medal hope Choi Min-jeong finished second but was disqualified.

In speedskating, the Dutch claimed their fourth gold medal with a one-two in the men’s 1,500m through Kjeld Nuis and Patrick Roest.

Germany celebrated a one-two in the women’s luge, with Natalie Geisenberger pipping Dajana Eitberger to retain her Olympic title.

In curling, Canada’s Kaitlyn Lawes and John Morris danced with delight after hammering Switzerland 10-3 to take the inaugural Olympic mixed doubles title.

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