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Marcel Hirscher, chasing third Alpine gold, skis out in slalom

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea -- In an Olympic stunner, Marcel Hirscher's quest for a third gold medal at the Pyeongchang Games ended quickly Thursday.

Hirscher, a 28-year-old Austrian star, was the big favorite in slalom, his specialty, but he skied out early in the opening run.

Hirscher looked uneasy on a course where the gates were set by an Austrian team coach. He lost speed at one combination of gates and trailed by more than a half-second at the midway time split before going off the course.

"I had already really a bad feeling about the whole situation," Hirscher said, acknowledging that he had some "really bad training days here."

Still, he smiled for the television cameras as he dressed in the finish area before talking to reporters.

"Hopefully there are still tickets available for a plane right now," Hirscher said, describing his Olympics as "amazing and really perfect."

Hirscher won the giant slalom and Alpine combined titles, and a slalom duel with Henrik Kristoffersen of Norway was one of the most anticipated events on the Olympic Alpine program.

Hirscher was seeking to become just the fourth Alpine skier to win three golds at a single Winter Games and the first man since Jean-Claude Killy 50 years ago.

It has been more than two years since Hirscher last failed to finish a slalom, a span of 21 races including his victory at the 2017 world championships.

He started immediately after Kristoffersen, his biggest rival, set a fast target of 47.72 seconds.

An Olympic title in slalom is the one big gap in Hirscher's impressive résumé. He took silver at the 2014 Sochi Olympics behind teammate Mario Matt.

"I need a gold medal in slalom," he said, not ruling out a return for the 2022 Beijing Olympics.

Hirscher leads the overall World Cup standings and is favored to win a record-extending seventh straight title next month as the season's best all-around skier.

In eight World Cup slaloms this season, Hirscher won six, was runner-up once and placed 17th when he raced in November with just a few days of training after breaking his ankle in August.