By Mark Lamport-Stokes
BEAVER CREEK, Colorado (Reuters) - Technical specialist Marcel Hirscher pulled off a pulsating and unexpected win in the men's super combined on Sunday to tighten Austria's grip atop the medal table at the alpine ski world championships.
More than three seconds off the pace after the morning downhill, Hirscher produced a storming run down a sun-bathed Birds of Prey course in the slalom to clock a winning time of two minutes 36.10 seconds.
"It is unbelievable," slalom world champion Hircher, 25, said after clinching the third gold medal of his career at the worlds.
"My plans for these championships were, in the best case, to catch one medal, it doesn't matter which color.
"So I reached my goals and everything that happens now is just super good," said the Austrian, the overall World Cup champion for the past three years.
Downhill expert Kjetil Jansrud of Norway, who had led after the morning, finished 0.19 seconds behind to claim his first ever medal at the worlds with defending champion Ted Ligety of the United States taking third.
"That was a special day for me considering I came into the speed races being the favorite and not getting anything in return," said Jansrud, who finished fourth in the Super-G and 15th in the blue riband downhill.
"And now, getting a medal after what was a decent slalom run, I must say."
Hirscher was placed 30th after the morning downhill and, as the first skier on to the slalom course, he immediately threw down the gauntlet with a twisting run of 49.93 seconds that no one would come close to matching.
After being greeted by waving Austrian flags and clanging cowbells in a packed grandstand as he crossed the finish line, Hirscher then had to wait for the next 29 racers before being sure he had clinched gold.
"For sure, in the second run I was super lucky to be the first who was allowed to go down the slalom course," he said. "It's unbelievable. No one was expecting I was going to win this race today."
Ligety, who won three titles at the 2013 world championships in Schladming, was surprised to be on the podium after struggling in the morning portion.
"After the downhill leg, I thought I had no chance," he said. "I just skied with reckless abandon in the slalom run, made some mistakes and somehow was lucky enough to hold on for a medal."
(Editing by Gene Cherry)