What’s it like to be the best Alpine skier from the sport’s richest nation?
Ask the two-time reigning World Cup overall champion Marcel Hirscher, the top Austrian gold-medal hope going into the Sochi Olympics.
“If you’re standing in front of a big, big, huge wall, and you have no opportunity to climb up there, and then behind you, there are a hundred crazy dogs who want to eat you up, then you have to go for your life,” Hirscher, 24, told The Associated Press.
Austria has won 105 Olympic Alpine skiing medals, nearly twice as many as second-place Switzerland (56). The U.S. is fourth with 39.
But the land of Franz Klammer and Hermann Maier produced zero men’s Alpine medals at the 2010 Olympics.
The pressure is on Hirscher to deliver gold in Sochi. He’s the reigning world champion and World Cup champion in the slalom and a rival to Ted Ligety in the giant slalom.
No other Austrian man or woman led a World Cup discipline or won an individual world championships last season.
Hirscher will be looking to top the podium again Sunday, when the Alpine skiing World Cup visits Levi, Finland, for a slalom. Hirscher was third in the season-opening giant slalom (behind winner Ligety) in Soelden, Austria, on Oct. 27.
He took second to Swede Andre Myhrer in Levi last season.
Ligety, too, is slated to start in Levi. The American has obviously been working on his slalom.
Steve Langton, who was described by driver Steven Holcomb as the “best push athlete in the world,” announced his retirement today.
A collegiate sprinter and jumper at Northeastern University, Langton decided to try bobsledding after watching the 2006 Winter Olympics. He filled out an online athlete resume, and, by the 2010 Games, he was an Olympian.
At the Sochi 2014 Games, Langton teamed with Holcomb to win a bronze medal in the two-man race. It was the first Olympic medal in the event by American sled since 1952. He claimed another bronze medal as a member of Holcomb’s four-man “Night Train.”
“In Sochi I competed on the world’s biggest stage, I won two medals for my country and I did so along not only the best teammates but best friends anyone could ever ask for,” Langton told USA Bobsled.
Langton, who has a 62-inch standing box jump and can squat more than 500 pounds, was described by Men’s Health as “the most powerful winter Olympian” in the lead-up to 2014 Games.
“[Langton’s] work ethic and discipline rubbed off on the other athletes and made everyone better,” said USA Bobsled & Skeleton Chief Executive Officer Darrin Steele. “I have no doubt that he’ll find success in the next chapter of his life as well.”
Langton appeared on “The Amazing Race” in 2015 with his girlfriend, Aly Dudek, an Olympic short track speedskater.
None of the push athletes on the current U.S. roster have Olympic experience. Holcomb will compete in the World Cup opener this Saturday with Sam McGuffie, a former University of Michigan football player. The race will be McGuffie’s World Cup debut.