Final ski season, all of the speak was about Lindsey Vonn’s quest to go Ingemar Stenmark as essentially the most profitable racer of all time.
By comparability, double Olympic champion Stenmark — a Swedish icon alongside tennis nice Bjorn Borg within the late 1970s and early 1980s — solely gained the general title thrice. Hirscher’s nearest rival on the boys’s circuit was Marc Girardelli, who gained 5 general titles in 9 seasons.
Hirscher additionally gained the slalom and large slalom World Cup crowns six occasions every, clinched seven world titles in varied disciplines and at last secured double Olympic gold in Pyeongchang in 2018 after taking silver in Sochi 4 years earlier.
“I might place him in similar vary as Stenmark. A minimum of,” Peter Schrocksnadel, veteran head of the Austrian Ski Federation, informed CNN Sport in Kitzbuhel on the annual Hahnekamm races in January.
Hirscher, like Stenmark, was a technical professional, excelling within the rhythmic dance of slalom and large slalom relatively than the brute energy and bravado of the pace occasions.
His poise underneath strain, and skill to search out pace even on essentially the most intricate of programs is famous. His nearest rival in latest seasons, Henrik Kristoffersen, can attest to the just about supernatural energy of Hirscher’s second-run prices, calling him, “The king, the best.”
American Ted Ligety, a double Olympic gold medalist champion and five-time World Cup large slalom champion, stated Hirscher “modified ski racing without end.”
“He shifted the paradigm in what we thought was doable on skis,” Ligety informed Powder journal. “He compelled everybody to boost their degree of snowboarding and at occasions it felt like a futile effort.
“He appeared to all the time get higher and by no means appeared to have off days. He did that every one whereas being humble, sort and sleek. A real champion. I’ll miss competing towards him however I’ve to be sincere, a part of me will not, he was too good.”
Again house in skiing-mad Austria, Hirscher has been a bona fide celebrity for years. As a product of his millennial era, he has an enormous social media fan base, following his life in snowboarding, health, automotive racing, motorbikes and past. He even has his personal journal referred to as “Heroes.”
Such is his reputation and fame — eclipsing Bayern Munich star David Alaba or tennis participant Dominic Thiem — that even going out in public is problematic, in response to journalist Florian Madl of Innsbruck-based day by day paper Tiroler Tageszeitung.
“He will not stroll down the road,” Madl informed CNN in Kitzbuhel. “It might take 20 minutes to do what ought to take him 20 seconds.”
In January, Eurosport named him Sportsman of the 12 months, forward of fellow nominees similar to Novak Djokovic, Simone Biles and Lewis Hamilton.
“What makes Marcel so nice? It is himself,” added Schrocksnadel.
“He is essentially the most centered skier I do know, since ever, and I have been within the enterprise a very long time. He does not care what number of first locations he has, he needs to win the following one, that is his focus.”
‘Hates to lose’
In response to Hirscher, his physique form is the “excellent symmetry” for ski racing — not too small or tall and weight, and with “good genes” — however he believes his secret is his consideration to element.
And he all the time credit the staff round him for his success. “I’m not the higher skier,” he says. “With my staff, I’m able to have my gear on level.” But when it was simply having the fitting gear, others could possibly be pretty much as good.
Madl added: “He cannot lose. And he can’t disguise that he cannot lose. Whereas another person is sleeping or enjoyable he nonetheless picks on issues like approach, or bindings or ski materials or edge grip or no matter. There’s almost no spare time, he makes use of on a regular basis for his focus.”
Austria has spawned many males’s ski greats over time, together with the late Toni Sailer, a seven-time world champion and triple Olympic gold medalist in 1956. Then there’s pace service provider Hermann Maier, a four-time World Cup general winner and double Olympic champion.
However one other Austrian legend Franz Klammer says comparisons are nugatory, given completely different occasions, situations, gear, bodily health, vitamin, competitors and different elements.
“It is completely different, you can’t examine Toni Sailer with Marcel Hirscher,” Klammer, the five-time World Cup downhill champion and 1976 OIympic downhill gold medallist, informed CNN in Kitzbuhel.
“They’re completely different occasions, completely different conditions — downhill skiers are completely different to slalom skiers. However Hirscher is certainly top-of-the-line ever.”
If Hirscher was spectacular with 9 wins in what could be his closing season, his achievements the earlier yr had been arguably extra exceptional. He broke his ankle on his first coaching day on snow in August 2017, fearing his desires of Olympic glory — even his profession — could possibly be over.
However racing with no strain, he blew away Kristoffersen, and stormed to 13 wins on the World Cup circuit in addition to clinching his first Olympic gold medals with the enormous slalom and mixed in Pyeongchang.
In his common weblog on the finish of final season, Hirscher quashed rumours he would swap to the pace disciplines to refresh his motivation.
However when he married his associate Laura final summer season and the couple welcomed their first youngster — a boy — within the autumn, many observers thought ski racing could be pushed into the background.
He hung round for another glittering yr, however retired on the very prime of his sport this September.
“I all the time needed to stop at a second after I knew I might nonetheless win races,” he stated at his retirement information convention in Salzburg.
“I consider that I used to be extraordinarily fortunate. As an athlete, I’m going house with none after results. It was additionally that I wish to play soccer with my little boy, climb the mountains and do issues with none serous harm or ache.”
Marcel Hirscher. Snowboarding’s true G.O.A.T?