By Mark Trevelyan
PYEONGCHANG (Reuters) - He has dominated men's Alpine skiing for the past seven years and lacks only an Olympic gold to cap the perfect career, but Austria's Marcel Hirscher is keen to play down the importance of that missing medal.
The 28-year-old has won six successive overall World Cup titles, and leads the slalom, giant slalom and overall standings this season. Yet his Olympic record is modest by comparison, with just a silver in the slalom at Sochi in 2014.
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He has potentially four shots at a gold in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics which open on Friday - in the slalom, giant slalom, and probably the Super G and combined.
"It would be an amazing success, but not a life-changing or career-changing success, but it would be really nice to have," he told reporters on Wednesday, while also describing his next two weeks' work as a 'mission'.
"What is 100 percent sure is that I go for it, that's the plan. Plans don't always work out but you never know. It can be that the dream comes true but it could also be that I finish the Olympic Games with just one silver."
Cutting a relaxed figure in a hotel at the foot of the Jeongseon alpine course, Hirscher stressed the contrast between his state of mind now and four years ago.
"Having 55 World Cup wins, six big crystal globes... that's something that's given me confidence," he told reporters.
"The only thing I can do at the moment and the coming years is to enjoy, because I don't have the feeling that I have to or there is no need any more, it's just the pleasure. If I'm done tomorrow it will be fine anyways, it was an amazing career."
Adding spice to the technical events in which the Austrian is so dominant is the resurgence after injury of his American rival Ted Ligety, who last month scored his first top-three World Cup finish in more than two years.
"In GS, Ted has an outside position and can be a big rival and a big favorite for the GS medal, and in slalom as well as GS Henrik Kristoffersen of Norway is for sure one of the biggest favorites," Hirscher said.
His first appearance in competition won't be until at least next Tuesday, when the men's combined takes place. So that leaves plenty of time to spend training, relaxing and thinking.
"At the moment I'm watching (TV) series, recovery training, preparation for the next day, physio, massage, take a shower, watching videos, analyzing... oh, it's time for bed. It's not so boring."
(Reporting by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Christian Radnedge)