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Mikaela Shiffrin, who until last week had not raced a super-G in 382 days, doubled down on the World Championship super-G bronze she won on Feb. 11 to collect gold in the women’s alpine combined event on Feb. 15.
This was the first World Championship alpine combined event Shiffrin competed in, having opted out of this race in past years to free up her schedule to compete in the other events. This win therefore marks Shiffrin’s first World Champion title in the discipline, though it comes on the heels of her other World Champion titles in super-G, slalom, and giant slalom.
Shiffrin has now amassed a staggering six World Championship Gold medals, surpassing American Ted Ligety’s record; this gold also brings her World Championship medal count to nine, more than even Lindsey Vonn accrued over her storied career.
“It means something, but I don’t really know what to say about it,” Shiffrin told U.S. Ski and Snowboard regarding the records she had just smashed. “Today I was focusing on today. First: good super-G run; second: good slalom run. I wasn’t thinking about the record.”
Watch: Mikaela Shiffrin’s World Championships Alpine Combined Runs
We predicted the alpine combined events at this year’s World Championships in Cortina d’Ampezzo would be exciting, but no one could have predicted just how exciting. A mere 0.06 seconds separated the top three racers after the super-G, the first run of the alpine combined event.
Shiffrin started far back in the field with bib 28, yet skied a fast and smooth run that catapulted her to third, just 0.05 seconds off Italian Elena Curtoni’s time.
Curtoni herself started with bib 17 to cross the finish line 0.01 seconds behind teammate Federica Brignone to land in second. Brignone posted the fastest time on the super-G course to head into the slalom with the lead.
While a downhill or super-G is generally where spectators can expect to see the most daring and exciting racing, Monday’s slalom proved an exception.
Race officials had injected the slalom slope with water in hopes of hardening the soft snow the racers have had to contend with in Cortina until now. In the process, they turned it into an ice rink that led 14 racers to either miss a gate or crash out of the course.
Among those who DNFed: Brignone, who led after the super-G, and two-time alpine combined World Champion, Wendy Holdener from Switzerland.
While some racers struggled to find an edge on the icy slalom course, Shiffrin looked to be in her element. The 24-year-old who grew up training and racing slalom on Vermont’s slopes while attending Burke Mountain Academy used the run to show off her technical prowess.
Unlike other racers who battled with the slope to gain purchase, Shiffrin allowed her skis and edges to do all the work. She crossed the finish line a staggering 2.35 seconds ahead of Curtoni, who held the lead until then.
“It was tough conditions—like a real slalom—but I felt good and like I was pushing the whole time,” Shiffrin told U.S. Ski and Snowboard. “It’s nice when you feel like you’re skiing well and it works.”
Only Petra Vlhova of Slovakia and Switzerland’s Michelle Gisin could come close to Shiffrin’s time.
Vlhova, who sat in seventh place after the super-G, skied the second-fastest slalom to finish 0.86 seconds behind Shiffrin’s combined time and collect the alpine combined silver medal.
Gisin, 2018 Olympic Champion in alpine combined, found herself in fourth place after the super-G run. But a strong slalom run was good enough to move her up to third, 0.89 seconds off Shiffrin’s time, to collect the bronze.
American Isabella Wright was one of 16 women to successfully complete the slalom and was rewarded with 14th place overall. Teammate Breezy Johnson did not finish the super-G. A.J. Hurt, who skied an impressive super-G to land in 24th, did not finish the slalom.
On the men’s side, Austrian Marco Schwarz won gold and usurped 2019 Alpine Combined World Champion Alexis Pinturault from France.
Pinturault had won seven of the last 11 alpine combined events on the men’s World Cup circuit and was the favorite heading into today’s race, but the Frenchman was ultimately forced to settle for silver after crossing the finish just 0.04 seconds behind Schwarz’s overall time. Loic Meillard from Switzerland finished 1.12 seconds behind Schwarz to collect bronze.
Bryce Bennett was the only American to finish the men’s alpine combined, placing 16th thanks to a strong super-G run that landed him in 13th heading into the slalom.
Next up in Cortina is the men’s and women’s parallel event on Feb. 16, followed by team parallel on Feb. 17. The women’s giant slalom takes place on Feb. 18.