Alpine skiing-Austria’s Strolz wins men’s combined gold

Alpine skiing-Austria's Strolz wins men's combined gold

Austria’s Johannes Strolz completed his incredible comeback from the brink of giving up professional skiing by winning a gold medal in the men’s combined event at the Beijing Games on Thursday.

Strolz, who almost quit skiing a year ago after losing his place in his country’s top team, was fastest in slalom after coming fourth in downhill to pip Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt Kilde to top spot on the podium.

James Crawford won the bronze medal, handing Canada their first alpine podium finish of the Beijing Games.

Strolz worked as a policeman in a small town in Austria for months last summer, driving a patrol car and controlling traffic to earn money and staying on the ski circuit without official support.

He was eventually invited to train with the German alpine team and punched his ticket to the Olympics with a stunning slalom victory at a World Cup race in Adelboden in Switzerland last month – his first in his nine years of racing.

“Everybody is incredibly pleased, incredibly excited. It’s a great story,” Austria men’s slalom coach Paul Schwarzacher said. “He’s very humble, very centred.

“He(‘s) always been a great athlete, incredibly fit. It’s obviously not been easy years for him. You have to be patient in ski racing, he’s showed everybody that. Hard work and patience and never give up.”

Strolz’s victory extends Austria’s top podium finish in the men’s combined to a second Olympics after Marcel Hirscher won at the Pyeongchang Games four years ago.

Kilde, who finished first in Thursday’s downhill race, won his second medal of the Games to go with his bronze in the super-G.

The Norwegian, who had not skied a slalom race in two years, made a late decision to enter the combined, perhaps motivated by his failure to fire in the downhill, the opening alpine race of the Games, on Monday.

“It was quite amazing. I haven’t skied slalom in two years,” Kilde said. “I just had a good feeling when I was skiing. I went for it, just pointed the skis and tried to stay in balance. When you have good skis and good equipment then it runs easier.

“It’s huge. What an Olympic Games it has been. Of course some emotions on the way, but still quite amazing.”

Strolz’s compatriot Marco Schwarz, the reigning combined World Champion came fifth, while their was also disappointment for 2018 silver medallist Alexis Pinturault of France, who did not finish his slalom run.

Source: Reuters

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