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.