Sibling success inspires Gisin and Matt to reach for the stars

Alpine skiing medallists Michelle Gisin of Switzerland and Michael Matt of Austria were each inspired to success at PyeongChang 2018 by the past achievements of their older siblings.

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Gisin, who won the women’s Alpine combined gold on 22 February said her sister Dominique Gisin's downhill triumph at Sochi 2014 inspired her to “reach for the stars”.

Gisin was third-fastest in the downhill leg of the competition, and quick enough in her slalom run to hold off the challenge of favourite Mikaela Shiffrin (USA) and add a second gold medal to the family trophy cabinet.

Pep talk

For Matt, meanwhile, a pep talk from his brother Mario before his second run in the men’s slalom on 22 February had the desired effect, turning a 12th-placed qualifying run into third place in the final and a place on the podium.

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His bronze meant that between them, the three Matt brothers boast a full set of Olympic Winter Games medals. Mario, who retired after winning slalom gold at Sochi 2014, and Andreas, who won a silver in freestyle skiing at Vancouver 2010, were both glued to their TV sets back home in Austria as they watched their 24-year-old younger brother compete at the Jeongseon Alpine Centre.

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“[Mario] called me after the first run,” revealed Michael. “It's not a good sign when he calls me, it's always when I am slow in the first run.

“But it helped. He told me: ‘It didn't look good, didn't look smooth’. It's not the way I can ski, so we changed it a little bit.”

Tense wait

Matt made a small mistake on his second run and was convinced as he waited at the bottom of the slope that he was not going to finish on the podium, despite being at the top of the leaderboard.

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That suspicion appeared to have been confirmed as Swiss Ramon Zenhaeusern and Swede Andre Myhrer both bettered his time; but when Norwegian standout Henrik Kristoffersen made an uncharacteristic error on the day’s final run, the Austrian found himself with an unexpected bronze.

“It was even more tough than being on the start, that was the craziest feeling I have ever had waiting down here,” he said.

Sister act

As for Gisin, despite skiing to gold herself at PyeongChang 2018, she maintained that her sister’s victory in 2014 was still “the biggest moment of my life”.

“There was never competition [between us]. It was the biggest moment of my life when she won that gold, and I think today was one of the biggest moments of our lives; but her gold will forever be the biggest thing,” the 24-year-old said after her Alpine combined triumph.

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“She made me believe that you can grab the stars, and that's what I did today.”

Golden inspiration

Shiffrin was, for many, the favourite in the combined event, while Swiss team-mate Wendy Holdener, the eventual bronze medallist, was also expected to challenge for top spot.

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“It's amazing to be on the podium with two such amazing skiers and I knew I would have to show the slalom of my life to have a chance to get that gold medal,” she said.

“I'm just so excited that I found my run. I've been looking for that run the whole season and it came at just the perfect moment.”