JEONGSEON, South Korea – Eventually, the Question began to bother Marcel Hirscher.
It wasn't so much the actual content, which was always some variation of: “Do you need an Olympic gold medal to validate your otherwise-perfect skiing career?” He was certain he knew the answer: “No.” It was more the incessant echo of it, over and over.
How often did Hirscher hear the Question? “Ev-e-ry day,” he said.
This was offered with a smile Tuesday, because that line of inquiry will never again arise. As of the Alpine combined event at the Pyeongchang Games, Hirscher is, at long last, an Olympic champion.
The 28-year-old Austrian used a sublime slalom run on an icy course to rise from 12th after the opening downhill in the two-run competition and added that Winter Games triumph to a substantial collection of accolades. He already owned a record six consecutive overall World Cup titles and four individual world championship golds.
“I'm super happy, because now this stupid question has gone away,” Hirscher said, before adding with gusto, “Now The Question is Zzzzzzztt. Deleted.”
Hirscher finished in 2 minutes, 6.52 seconds, 0.23 seconds faster than silver medalist Alexis Pinturault of France. Another Frenchman, Victor Muffat-Jeandet, was third, more than a full second behind Hirscher.
Two-time Olympic champion Ted Ligety of the U.S., beleaguered by injuries the past few seasons – a torn ACL followed by back surgery – finished fifth.
Ligety wasn't all that fast on the downhill track, which he expected since it's not his specialty and it was windy. But he was much better in the slalom, keeping up with some of the best technical skiers in the world.
“My body breaking down hasn't helped the symmetry of our relationship as far as skiing goes,” said the 33-year-old, who was 1.45 seconds behind Hirscher's winning time. “I haven't been able to ski at a high level. The last two years, I didn't ski at all really. Before that, I was already starting to break down.
“Now I actually feel healthy ... keep that momentum going – hopefully I can bring parity back to that,” he added.
Taking away some positives, he hopes to carry it over to the super-G and his favorite event, the giant slalom, where he's the defending Olympic champion.
“It's good to be able to go to bed happy with my performance,” Ligety said. “Just not super psyched on not ending up with a medal.”