Updated: Sunday, 23 February 2014 02:12 | By Agence France-Presse

Matt wins men's slalom gold to become oldest ski champion

Austria's Mario Matt became the oldest Olympic alpine skiing champion in history on Saturday when he won an attritional men's slalom at age 34, in front of favourite Marcel Hirscher.


Matt wins men's slalom gold to become oldest ski champion

Austria's Mario Matt reacts in the finish area during the Men's Alpine Skiing Slalom Run 2 at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center during the Sochi Winter Olympics on February 22, 2014 - by Olivier Morin

However the race ended in controversy with many of the sport's big names crashing out, including American star Ted Ligety who blasted the course as "unfair" and "unsporting".

Matt, a two-time slalom world champion, proved unbeatable over the two runs, finishing with a combined time of 1min 41.84sec to close the skiing competitions at the Sochi Games. 

His compatriot Hirscher, the reigning world champion, finished second at 0.28sec, with young Norwegian sensation Henrik Kristoffersen taking bronze at 0.83sec. 

Matt beat Norwegian legend Kjetil Andre Aamodt for the mantle of oldest winner, at 34 years and 319 days old. Aamodt was 34 years and 169 days when he won super-G gold in Turin in 2006. 

Meanwhile, 19-year-old Kristoffersen became the youngest Olympic medallist in men's alpine skiing, a day after US teenager Mikaela Shiffrin smashed the record for youngest ever Olympic slalom champion.

Kristoffersen, who had won the last slalom going into the Olympics, was 15th after the first run but showed off a commanding performance to take the lead in the second. 

But his lead didn't last long as 24-year-old Hirscher, with his typical attacking style, stormed down the course. 

The Austrian slalom World Cup winner had made a faultless first run but had found himself in ninth place before battling back in impressive fashion. 

Hirscher just missed the prized treble of slalom World Cup trophy and world and Olympic gold, but was visibly moved and teary-eyed as he stood in the finish area with only teammate Matt likely to overtake him for gold. 

- 'Unsportsmanlike, not the most fair' -

Matt and Hirscher's podium double bring Austria's alpine skiing haul at these Olympics to nine medals -- including three golds -- out of a total 30. 

But the tricky course, set by Ante Kostelic -- father of 2010 Olympic silver medallist Ivica, who finished joint-ninth on Saturday -- drew some serious criticism after it caused many of the top favourites to crash out.  

These included Felix Neureuther of Germany, who survived a minor car crash a week ago on his way to take his flight for Sochi, and France's Alexis Pinturault, who had a slight advance on Hirscher but made an awkward jump and landed heavily on the snow. 

America's newly-crowned giant slalom champion Ligety tried to battle down the slope but also went out, like another French hope, Jean-Baptiste Grange.

Kostelic is known for his tortuous courses and challenged the racers on Saturday with tightly-spaced gates straight out of the start. 

But Ligety, a four-time world champion, slammed the race afterwards as a "battle of attrition" and "not the most fair".

"(It's) borderline unsportsmanlike to set those kinds of courses on these kinds of hills."

"I wasn't one of the medal favourites here so it's not too frustrating for me.

"(But) this is the Olympics, you're trying to showcase our sport to the rest of the world and I don't think this does us any favours, especially when you have 12 guys in the top 30 go out, that's not an ideal setting."

A visibly annoyed Kostelic hit back, insisting he was a fair setter: "Modern Olympics began with one motto: Citius, Altius, Fortius (Faster, Higher, Stronger). That's all."

The Croat already had tongues wagging last week after he set the slalom run of the super-combined, in which his son then won silver. 

Defending Olympic champion Giuliano Razzoli of Italy, 16th after the first run, also crashed out in the second round.

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