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Cortina d’Ampezzo (BL), 15 February 2021 – Mikaela Shiffrin (USA) continued her ascent to the very top rank of all-time Alpine skiers as she produced a masterful display to claim the women’s Alpine combined gold medal on Monday.
In her first-ever start in the combined at a world championships Shiffrin took gold courtesy of a controlled, confident effort in the opening super-G and a powerhouse performance in the slalom. It marks the sixth time Shiffrin has topped the podium, making her the USA’s most successful world championship skier.
Silver medallist Petra Vlhova (SVK), who finished 0.86 seconds behind Shiffrin’s two minutes, 27.02 seconds, summed up her rival’s efforts.
“She was perfect in Super-G and also in slalom” the Slovakian said simply.
Michelle Gisin (SUI), the Alpine combined Olympic champion, took the bronze medal to continue Switzerland’s fine start to the 2021 championships but, in truth, the result looked in little doubt once Shiffrin powered out of the gates.
“I’m happy that we decided to put this in the plan this world champs,” Shiffrin said. “I felt really good. My slalom in the last training days I had felt good and I felt like my transition from super-G this morning to getting into the slalom skis was pretty spot-on.”
The 25-year-old had not raced a super-G in more than a year before the start of these championships but settled into an immediate rhythm down the Olympia delle Tofane course to post the third-quickest super-G time in the morning.
Behind only the Italian pair of Federica Brignone and Elena Curtoni, and crucially 0.34 seconds ahead of her fellow slalom specialist Vlhova, the stage was set for Shiffrin. And she did not disappoint down the tough, icy technical course.
“It was really hard conditions and that was not super easy to manage,” Shiffrin said. “I think it was maybe a little bit intimidating. I also felt it but I just kept pushing.”
The USA star, whose sixth gold medal moved her one clear of compatriot Ted Ligety’s haul, won the slalom by over half a second from Vlhova.
“It was a difficult slalom because the foundations were really icy,” Vlhova said. “I didn’t have good feelings because I don’t like this kind of icy.”
Bronze medallist Gisin found it just as challenging, losing her skis “a couple of times” and being unable to push as hard as she wanted. In fact, the Olympic champion is looking forward to seeing just how Shiffrin did it.
“That was too much to be in touch with Mikaela today,” Gisin said. “I think she did a perfect slalom – I really wanted to see that run because it must’ve been really nice to watch.”
While Gisin finished just three hundredths of a second behind Vlhova, the rest of the field were well off the podium pace.
After watching her teammate Brignone fall at just the third slalom gate, Curtoni skied a solid but cautious run placing her fourth, 2.35 seconds behind Shiffrin. It represents the best finish of the championships so far for the Italian women but the home team were hoping for much more from the opening three events.
The unfamiliar slalom conditions – prepared with the men’s race in mind too – claimed a host of victims, with 14 skiers failing to finish. Double defending champion Wendy Holdener (SUI) was one of those, caught by the same third gate that left Brignone in despair.
The women go again on Tuesday in the parallel giant slalom, a new event for these championships.