Mario Matt of Austria emerged with his first career Olympic gold medal after two great runs on a slalom course that proved insurmountable for many of the discipline's top athletes. Fellow countryman Marcel Hirscher won silver and Norway's Henrik Kristoffersen won bronze.
Matt led after the first run, so his appearance atop the podium wasn't a surprise. Both Hirscher and Kristoffersen got a lot of help to vault from ninth and 15th, respectively, into the top three. Five of the top 10 skiers after the first run failed to finish the second, which opened the door.
Knowing that, let's check out the medal winners and top times from the men's slalom, which was the final Alpine skiing event of the 2014 Winter Olympics. It's followed by a complete recap of the action from the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center.
Men's Slalom Medal Winners and Top Times
|Men's Alpine Skiing Slalom Podium|
|Men's Slalom - Top 10 Finishers|
To see how all 77 skiers performed in the second run, visit the Sochi Olympics' official site.
Matt held a nearly half-second lead heading into the second run following a terrific opening effort of 46.70 seconds. The 34-year-old veteran has enjoyed success in the World Championships and on the World Cup circuit, but had never earned a medal on the Olympic stage.
There were six other medal hopefuls within one second of the lead, though. It was a group that included American Ted Ligety, who was trying to ride a wave of momentum from his triumph in the giant slalom into another medal.
ESPN passed along comments from the two-time Olympic goal medalist after the first run, and he was pleased with the result:
That was definitely a better slalom run than I've had in a little while. If I have another run like that and can ski inspired and hold off some of those more slalom-oriented skiers, I have a chance at it.
I'm going to go just as hard and hopefully I can get away with it and come down and be fast.
Since the format for the second run was reverse order of the top 30 finishers, the motivation was simple. Every contender wanted to put themselves atop the standings to put pressure on the next athlete and hope it held up, at least for awhile.
Obviously, those further from medal contention had no choice but to take a bunch of chances with hopes of hitting a miracle run and vaulting toward the top. As a result, there were plenty of skiers who didn't finish the course.
The action really started to heat up when Hirscher took to the course. He was one of the top contenders for gold heading into the event. While a lackluster first run by his standards left him in ninth, a strong second run put him back in the medal mix.
It seemingly had an impact on the skiers that followed, as well. The next four hopefuls who took to the course—Alexis Pinturault and Jean-Baptiste Grange of France, Felix Neureuther of Germany and the aforementioned Ligety—all failed to finish as they pushed for a lead time.
As a combination of poor runs and DNFs continued, it became evident Kristoffersen, who was seemingly a non-factor after the opening round, was suddenly back alive for a medal. And sure enough, once Andre Myhrer failed to complete the course, the Norwegian became a podium lock.
The struggles were helpful to Matt. With Hirscher leading, he knew all he needed to do was complete a clean run without any major drop-off in speed to win gold.
He avoided as much risk as possible to make sure he didn't become the latest skier to watch a medal slip through his fingers. It made things close, but he did enough to hold on for the gold.
Christopher Clarey of The New York Times noted the reaction of Hirscher once it became clear his comeback bid fell just short:
Chris Dufresne of the Los Angeles Times added that Matt is now the oldest athlete to win the Olympic slalom event:
Looking ahead, all the Alpine skiers now have to wait four more years to shine on the sport's biggest international stage. As always, there will be a whole new group of medal hopefuls ready to challenge the returning medalists when the Games start in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
The Sochi Olympics have one more day of competition ahead. There are still medals to award in cross-country skiing, bobsled and men's hockey on Sunday before the closing ceremony. It will bring the total number of events completed to 98.
Today, Mario Matt of Austria became one of the champions.
Updated Medal Count