The 32-year-old Swede was in second placing after the first of two runs at the Yongpyong Alpine Centre, just 0.2 seconds behind Wendy Holdener (SUI). Reigning champion and favourite Mikaela Shiffrin (USA), aiming to become the first person to successfully defend an Olympic slalom title, was a surprising fourth at the conclusion of the first run.
The 22-year-old American had won the giant slalom on Thursday and after her first run, said she had been feeling unwell before her start.
Earlier, Holdener laid down a strong time to lead the first session, negotiating the 63-gate course in 48.89 seconds. Hansdotter, a 32-year-old veteran of the World Cup circuit, became the second Swedish woman to win the Olympic slalom following Anja Pärson in Turin in 2006.
At 32 years and 65 days, Hansdotter is the second-oldest Swedish woman to win an individual event at an Olympic Winter Games.
“I knew it would be tough, Mikaela has been so strong this season,” Hansdotter said. “I was maybe a little bit surprised. It's nice for me to beat her for once because she has been beating me so many times.”
Something to smile about
Despite the pressure of Olympic competition, she smiled as she stood in the starting gate. “I felt at the start of both runs today that it was so fun. I had a smile on my face and tried to ski as fast as I could,” she said.
“I love skiing and I love racing, to be able to ski at this level is so much fun and now I bring home a gold medal. It is a lot of hard work and a lot of years, but it is worth every minute when I am standing here.”
Holdener knew the pressure was on when she led after the first round, meaning she would be the last of the serious contenders to ski. “I was the last one on top. I knew what could happen, but I also knew what could go wrong,” she said. “If you are the last one on the start and you know you can win or get a medal, it's not that easy to bring it home.”
Below her best
Shiffrin was disappointed to have skied below her best, but happy for her fellow competitors. “I didn't really feel like myself today. I did a lot of training runs, a lot of free skiing, I was trying to get my really good feeling back, but it just wasn't there today to ski the aggressive way I need to be worthy of a medal,” she said.
"It's a really big bummer because I know how I have been skiing slalom all season long, it's so close. But I am really happy for the girls who did medal and [I] go back home and re-evaluate."
Collecting a medal in her first Olympics, there was nothing but joy for Gallhuber. “I can't believe it. I am speechless. I did not expect it,” she said. “My second run was really good. I stood on the start and thought ‘all in’ because I was really far behind.”