Austrian vet Matt wins Olympic gold in slalom

GOLDEN AGE: Austria's Mario Matt held off compatriot Marcel Hirscher to become the oldest alpine skiing gold medal winner.
GOLDEN AGE: Austria's Mario Matt held off compatriot Marcel Hirscher to become the oldest alpine skiing gold medal winner.

Austrian Mario Matt became the oldest winner of an Olympic Alpine skiing gold medal on Saturday (local time) when he edged out team mate Marcel Hirscher in a thrilling slalom at the Sochi Games.

The 34-year-old held his nerve to win by 0.28 seconds over two legs down a Rosa Khutor course that proved too difficult for many of the medal contenders.

American Ted Ligety and French hope Alexis Pinturault both floundered in a crash-littered second run for the top 30 with giant slalom champion Ligety saying the set-up was "borderline unsportsmanlike".

World champion and World Cup leader Hirscher put down a scintillating second run under the floodlights to climb from a distant ninth to first and with only Matt left to ski he looked on the brink of snatching gold.

Matt, nicknamed Super Mario for his slalom world titles in 2001 and 2007, then used all his vast experience to pick his way through the 64 gates in chopped up snow, propelling himself across the finish line to huge cheers from the grandstand.

Norway's Henrik Kristoffersen, 19, took the bronze medal to become the youngest man to win an Olympic medal in Alpine skiing. He had been 15th after the first run.

"It's my last Olympics," Matt, who had previously only appeared at the 2006 Games after injuries in 2002 and 2010, told reporters. "Before the run I just said focus on your skiing and the rest would happen, it's amazing."

Asked about becoming the oldest Olympic skier to win gold he said: "I don't feel old, its incredible. My body still works.

"I had more problems in 2007. I've been doing this for 14 years and yes there are some days you think it's better to stop but I've stayed fast in training, had a good season, and stayed really motivated."

Reuters