Not many racers talk with such eloquence or dignity when they face the worlds ski racing media at the FIS Alpine Forum. As part of his duties as the Men’s Overall Champion from last season, Marcel Hirscher faced up to this task with humility and spoke to a silent room that picked up his every word. The half Dutch, … half Austrian 24 year old won the Overall in 2012 – 2013 and then defended it last season. This time last year Hirscher sat on the coach talking to Nick Fellows with Lindsey Vonn, this year it should have been Tina Maze but she was unable to make it this year. Hirscher looked back at the last year and explained what it is like racing with the pressure of racing in the World Championships at home in Austria.
Hirscher is very humble, he admitted that he did not think he would be back sitting on the couch for a second year. Yet after a year that saw him finish on the podium eleven times in slalom last season, out of eleven races, comparisons with the greatest slalom skier of all time, Ingamar Stenmark, are being made. Hirscher felt the pressure and described the pressure as facing a huge wall that you cannot climb with a pack of dogs behind you. “It was a crazy situation,” he described it as. the change came for him a few days before the Championships when he was alone and thought that he had a huge opportunity to do something great by himself Â … “or I could be the arsehole of the nation!”
Hirscher is still only 24 and it is hard to believe this with the amount of experience he has. He realises that the team behind him are just as important as he is. There are times you will see his father on the course ready with another pair of boots for him. Yet Hirscher is quick to emphasise that the team he has around him he trusts implicitly and has worked with them for a long time. This is something that he values deeply.
When looking back at last season, the turning point came at Kitzbuehel he feels. With 50,000 Austrians (and a few others…) all almost demanding he win, the noise and the pressure was intense. This one day and the win that he secured, he felt was the turning point of the whole run up to the World Championships. Heading into the final day of racing, no Austrian man had won a Gold and this was unheard of for the Austrians: Pressure was intense. “It was a very special race and great preparation for the World Championships,” Hirscher quietly explained.
“I am not a machine. I can make mistakes as well. Sometimes I am wondering why this can be the truth,” he explains looking back on the success of last season. “I had the speed in the early days but made the mistakes as well,” he adds when thinking about the early days. In 2007 he won his first Europa Cup Slalom in San Viglio and you could already see the potential. It was not long before he was being fast tracked to the World Cup squad. Six years later, he is one of the most feared and admired racers.
Hirscher is not aloof and certainly is on good terms with many of the others racers. When Mr Giant Slalom, Ted Ligety, posted pictures of how his slalom training was going, one of the first to comment back was Hirscher. The banter between the two over the Social Media networks is great to see. Rivals and still friends!
The new season for him starts on Sunday and history says that the guys and girls who do well in the first race of the season will be up there at the end. Hirscher will have to deal with the Ligety fan club that will go up to the Rettenbach glacier. Yet after the race, friendship will be first and foremost. The season for the defending Overall Champion starts again…