February 18, 2018 / 9:02 AM / 8 months ago

Olympics-Alpine skiing-Hirscher says team's support is the key to his success

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Ski champion Marcel Hirscher was quick to credit his team of coaches, trainers and equipment technicians for his staggering success at the Pyeongchang Olympics.

After winning his second Alpine ski gold medal in as many races, this time in Sunday's giant slalom, the 28-year-old Austrian was humble when asked what separated him from the rest of the field.

"We all have a big portion of talent and a big portion of training but I think I have a great team around me -- great technicians, great materials and great coaches," he told a media conference. "I think we are at the peak of our team."

That team starts with coach Michael Pircher, who was just as quick to put the credit back on his pupil.

"He's very special," Pircher told reporters. "He's very focused on his skiing and very professional about every part of racing," including, he said, nutrition, equipment and race-day preparations.

"The ski federation gave him the chance to build up his own team and he chose the right people, who he can trust," he said.

Pircher said it was his job to talk Hirscher through the course just before the start of a race, after analysing each twist and turn during pre-race inspections to find the fastest path to the bottom.

"I give him the last information before he starts."

Pircher urged Hirscher to take the most direct line possible down the relatively benign and straight course at the Yongpyong Alpine Centre on Sunday, advice that paid off with a gold.

Defending Sochi giant slalom gold medalist Ted Ligety and dozens of the other 110 racers were more cautious in their runs, swinging out widely and losing precious time and any chance to top the podium.

"Today I told him you have to go straight," Pircher said. "If you are too round, you will lose a hundredth of a second which can be the difference between winning or not."

Hirscher said that despite his dominance in Pyeongchang, this could be his last Olympics.

"I am very thankful to finally have two gold medals because (I) remember back to 2010 and 2014 finishing twice in fourth position," he added. "It's good to be in the first position."

He will be a favourite to win his third gold medal of the Games in Thursday's slalom, in which he took silver in Sochi four years ago.

As much as he is enjoying his success in South Korea, Hirscher said he was looking forward to warmer weather and home cooking when he returned to Austria.

"Right now I can feel that I'm getting tired a little bit because we are more than two-and-a-half weeks here and it's always very cold," he said, wrapped up in a thick jacket and woolly hat inside the media room.

"Sorry friends of Asia but right now I can't see rice any more," he added with a laugh. (Editing by Clare Fallon)

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