Austrian or not, Hirscher is hard to hate
Special to the Daily
BEAVER CREEK — You’d think it’d be easy to hate Marcel Hirscher.
The Austrian was poised to rob Ted Ligety of his fifth straight win at Beaver Creek on Friday and the Americans of their first FIS Alpine World Ski Championships gold medal. The Austrian is also blowing Ligety away in the World Cup GS standings and is lined up to win his fourth straight overall title, something he was once told he could never do as a tech specialist. He is extremely likely to walk away from these World Championships with four medals.
Then you watch the 25-year-old smile as he skis through the crowd after his leading the first run in Friday’s giant slalom, stopping to give his girlfriend a quick kiss. After winning the gold medal in the combined, you hear him take time out of his victory speech to wish the best for Ondrej Bank, the Czech skier who sustained the horrible crash, thus allowing Hirscher his key starting position in the second run (and who, by the way, is doing just fine and is already home and recuperating). When Ted Ligety nabbed the gold medal Friday, Hirscher, was the first to run out into the snow to congratulate him. You constantly hear the guy compliment other racers, crack jokes in English and appear to be, as much as you want to believe otherwise, genuinely humble.
“I gave my 100 percent, for sure,” Hirscher said after his silver medal run Friday, his third medal of these Champs after his gold in combined and gold in the Nations Team Event. “I have to say my run was good. But Ted’s was outstanding.”
It’s safe to say that Hirscher is a super star in his country, the Peyton Manning (or depending on how you look at victories, maybe the Tom Brady) of Austria. His ski brand — Austria’s Atomic — has a line of skis, helmet and goggles in his name.
Growing up in the small town of Annaberg in Lower Austria, Hirscher’s father operated the ski school where the future champion was first introduced to skis at the age of 2, shortly after he could walk. Hirscher entered his first competition at age 6 and made his World Cup debut just before his 18th birthday in 2007. By the end of the next season, he was a regular face on the slalom podium. By 2009-10, he was also a big threat in GS and combined. Before the 2011 World Championships, he broke his ankle, ending his season. Since then, he’s been back with a vengeance, winning the 2012, 2013 and 2013 World Cup overall globes.
Although he puts himself at risk when he occasionally straps on long skis for super G and downhill, Hirscher is a natural thrill seeker. In the summer time, it’s not uncommon to see him donning full body armor on a motocross course.
No matter which of his specific successes you call him out on, Hirscher is always quick to play it down, always acknowledging the individuals and circumstances that helped it happen.
In the Nations Team Event, Hirscher won all of his heats, a major factor in his team winning gold, but of course he credited his whole team with the effort. When he won alpine combined gold earlier this week, he said, “I wouldn’t have won with bib 31. You always need luck to be in first position.”
Judging by the evidence, Hirscher could turn out to be the luckiest guy at these World Champs. And he hasn’t even gotten to his best event yet.
“I’m pretty tired at the moment,” he said regarding Sunday’s slalom race. “But let’s see how it goes. There are a lot of favorites in slalom. If they inject a lot of water on the course, I can definitely ski fast.”
Stop making excuses, Marcel. Everyone knows you can ski fast no matter what.