Overall World Cup champion Marcel Hirscher helped Austria win the team event on Tuesday and earn the host nation its first gold medal at the Alpine skiing world championships.
In his first appearance at the worlds, Hirscher teamed up with Philipp Schoerghofer, Michaela Kirchgasser and Nicole Hosp to defeat Sweden 4-0 in the final.
Germany edged Canada in the small final for third place.
“That was cool, I had a super feeling,” said Hirscher, who is among the favorites for the individual giant slalom and slalom events. “It was good fun and I think we all performed really well.”
Austria failed to win a single event in the first week of the championships and were enduring their worst start to a world championship in 26 years with just two bronze medals from six races.
Hirscher said winning the first gold was important for the team ahead of the technical races.
“It’s a huge relief for us,” Hirscher said. “Our achievements were not all that bad, but we had several fourth places and they don’t count at world championships.”
The team event has been part of the worlds since 2005, with Austria also winning in 2007. Each nation has four racers, two men and two women, who race head-to-head against their opponents in four parallel races. Each win is worth one point.
A 2-2 tie is decided by adding the times of the fastest man and fastest woman on each team, with the lowest combined time winning.
Defending champions France lost in the quarter-finals to Germany.
Cheered on by 15,500 fans, Austria cruised to victory. After a bye in the first round, the hosts defeated Slovenia 3-1 in the quarter-finals and downed Germany 4-0 to reach the final.
“It was a very tough competition,” Kirchgasser said. “It was fun to compete and it’s great we pulled it off.”
Germany’s Felix Neureuther, one of the favorites for Sunday’s slalom, escaped injury in the first round after being hit on the right lower leg by opponent Filip Zubcic of Croatia, who lost balance and slid over from the other course.
Neureuther’s ski clipped off and the German crashed into a gate. He stood up and touched his knee several times, but remained on the team for the rest of the event.
“I think I was pretty lucky,” Neureuther said. “That guy hit me really hard.”
Many teams did not field their top racers to avoid potential injuries.
The US, who lost 3-1 to Sweden in the quarter-finals, rested double world champion Ted Ligety, super-G bronze medalist Julia Mancuso and slalom favorite Mikaela Shiffrin, who are all medal contenders in the upcoming individual technical events.
Other gold medalists, including Tina Maze of Slovenia and Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway, did not race either.
The world championships were to continue with the women’s giant slalom yesterday.