Hirscher gets gold again, Braaten wins slopestyle
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) — Two events, two gold medals for Marcel Hirscher.
The 28-year-old Austrian has a good chance to leave the Pyeongchang Olympics with one more.
Hirscher won the men’s giant slalom Sunday , finishing in 2 minutes, 18.04 seconds, and beating Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen by 1.27 seconds — the largest victory in the event at an Olympics in 50 years . He also won the alpine combined last Tuesday, and still has the slalom — his best event — to come.
“At the moment, I’m pumped!” Hirscher said.
Norway’s Oystein Braaten was also excited after winning the men’s ski slopestyle, edging American Nick Goepper for the gold.
“First run, I did what I planned to do, what I wanted to do as well as I could, and it held up against all the great runs today,” Braaten said. “Just being a part of a final like this was amazing.”
Norway won its fifth cross-country skiing gold of these games, taking the men’s 4x10-kilometer relay. Oleksandr Abramenko was the winner of the men’s aerials, giving Ukraine its first medal of these games and just its third gold ever at the Winter Games.
In a dramatic photo finish in the biathlon 15-kilometer mass start, Martin Fourcade edged Simon Schempp to win his second gold medal of the games. And, in the last medal event of the night, Nao Kodaira won the women’s 500-meter speedskating title in an Olympic record.
At Yongpyong Alpine Center, Hirscher led after the first run, but saw Kristoffersen rise from 10th-fastest in the morning to having the quickest time in the second run.
“Wow, it was not so easy to be the absolute favorite in this discipline, then sitting up there as the leader from the first run knowing that Henrik ripped it,” Hirscher said. “I had no choice. I knew I have to give 100 percent and I had to go into this battle.”
France’s Alexis Pinturault took the bronze, finishing 1.31 seconds behind Hirscher.
Ted Ligety, the 2014 Olympic champion, was 15th with a time of 2:21.25.
At Phoenix Snow Park, Braaten was the big star on the slopes despite most eyes being set on American Gus Kenworthy, who came out as gay about two years after capturing the silver medal in Russia. Kenworthy failed to land any of his three runs and finished last.
“It didn’t work out for me, which is a bummer,” said Kenworthy, who had become a strong, steady voice in the LGBT community. “I would’ve loved to have landed a run for sure. Definitely disappointing.”
Before the start of the contest, a screen grab of NBC showing Kenworthy sharing a tender moment with his boyfriend, Matt Wilkas , at the bottom of the hill went viral.
“To be able to do that, to give him a kiss, to have that affection broadcast to the world, is incredible,” Kenworthy said. “The only way to really change perceptions, to break down barriers, break down homophobia, is through representation. That’s definitely not something I had as a kid. I never saw a gay athlete kissing their boyfriend at the Olympics. I think if I had, it would’ve made it easier for me.”
Canada’s Alex Beaulieu-Marchand won the bronze.
The Norwegian team of Didrik Toenseth, Martin Johnsrud Sundby, Simen Hegstad Krueger and Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo won the cross-country relay in 1 hour, 33 minutes and 4.9 seconds.
That was good enough to beat the second-place Russian athletes by 9.4 seconds. France took the bronze.
Of the eight golds awarded in cross-country events in Pyeongchang, Norway has all but three. The Norwegians have won 11 overall medals in cross-country — two off the record set by the Soviet Union in Calgary in 1988.
Abramenko scored a 128.51 on his third and final jump, edging out China’s Zongyang Jia by just 0.46 points. Ilia Burov, an Olympic athlete from Russia, got bronze.
Kodaira’s 36.94 seconds made her the first woman to race under 37 seconds at sea level, bettering her old mark of 37.07 set in November in Norway.
Two-time defending champion Lee Sang-hwa of South Korea took silver in 37.33 and Karolina Ervanova of the Czech Republic earned bronze. Brittany Bowe was the highest U.S. finisher in fifth place.
Fourcade was caught by Schempp over the frantic final 100 meters and the two skiers came to the line neck-and-neck.
Fourcade, the world’s No. 1 biathlete, reached out his left foot ahead of Schempp as both skiers slid through the finish. The Frenchman quickly slammed his ski pole to the ground thinking he’d lost the race, but replays showed he won by the narrowest of margins.
It was a reversal for Fourcade, who had taken silver in a dramatic finish to the same event in Sochi four years ago.
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