Shiffrin skis out of slalom in Alpine combined at FIS World Alpine Ski Championships
Federica Brignone wins gold in first event of global championships
If one only glanced at the results for Monday’s Alpine combined at the FIS World Alpine Ski Championships in Meribel, France, it would appear Mikaela Shiffrin is on a path eerily reminiscent to last February’s Beijing Olympics. Even a casual observer, however, could see that the American skiing off-course with three gates remaining in the slalom portion of the combined — which adds the time from one super-G run and one slalom run — was an error of aggression, not one of nerves.
“Everyone’s going to ask, ‘Oh is this Beijing again?’” she told the Associated Press’s Andrew Dampf. “I didn’t really think about that for myself, but more for the people asking. But I also said before coming into this world champs multiple times, I’m not afraid if it happens again.”
Trailing Federica Brignone by 0.96 seconds after the super-G, Shiffrin gunned down the Italian throughout the 55-gate slalom course, moving within 0.08 seconds in the final sector. With just a few turns remaining, however, Shiffrin cut inside, clipping one of the final gates with her airborne right ski and drifting off-course to DNF. Brignone took the gold, Wendy Holdener placed second and Ricarda Haaser of Austria rounded out the podium with her first career global medal of any color.
“My mentality in the start for the slalom was to take all the risk, full-gas skiing top to bottom, push the whole way and take the risk that it might not work. I might ski off the course because slalom is like that — there’s no room for error,” Shiffrin said.
“I’m so happy and grateful for today,” Brignone said in the post-race interview. “It was an amazing day — I did two really amazing two runs. What was missing in my career was a gold medal and I’m so excited and happy for today.”
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Shiffrin, the defending Alpine combined world champion from 2021 in Cortina d’Ampezzo, was looking to tie Anja Parson (7) for the second-most world titles (and most in the modern era; Christel Cranz tops the list in 12) and become the first non-European skier (male or female) to win a combined event more than once at a world championships. The American superstar — currently the World Cup overall leader by a wide margin — has medaled in 11 of her 13 career world championships starts and each of the last 10 before Monday.
After her super-G run on the Roc de Fer, Shiffrin sat in sixth place with a time of 1 minute, 11.24 seconds, 0.96 seconds behind Italy’s Federica Brignone.
“I know Federica doesn’t ski a lot of slalom, but I know that when she skies it, she can be very fast. So, I am not sure if I can actually make up nine-tenths on that,” Shiffrin said after the first half of competition.
“The ones who win a medal are the ones who have a pretty solid run in both events or a really killer run in at least one event. I think I can do a very good run of slalom, so now I just focus on that.”
Skiing first in the event’s second run, Brignone put together what would be the second-fastest slalom mark, twisting through the 55-gate course in 47.19. Shiffrin came five athletes later and started cutting into the Italian’s time immediately. The Edwards skier had the fastest first and second sectors, but really knifed into Brignone’s lead on the steeper third segment. The grippier snow at the bottom of the course, which was used in the 1992 Albertville Olympics, forced the error.
“I saw that in inspection,” said Shiffrin, who has been so dominant in slalom this year she’s already secured her seventh globe in the discipline. “So I thought, ‘I have to be very strong with my position. I have to stay active, but I can’t take my foot off the gas. And this could be a section that’s tricky. It could be something that actually gets me if I take the full speed of the course.’ And in the end it did.”
Asked on French TV if she lost focus, Shiffrin said, “People are going to say that no matter what.”
Shiffrin was excited to have made up the ground on Brignone before the mishap and was pleased with her skiing.
“I love the feeling I have every time I get on my skis, no matter what event,” she told Dampf. “Unfortunately, you also have to face the side of the sport where it doesn’t work, you don’t finish and everyone’s disappointed — that’s the negative side or the sad side. But overall, it’s just been such an insane, amazing season and I feel like I don’t have to get motivated. I just keep it rolling and keep going with the skiing I have because it’s been the best I’ve ever done.”
The DNF secured the title for Brignone, who at 32, became the oldest winner of the women’s combination event at the world championships.
“I’m really proud of how I was concentrating and how my attitude was in both runs and that was the most important,” Brignone, whose only other world championship medal came in the giant slalom in 2011 in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, stated.
Brignone also became the fourth Italian woman to claim a world championship medal in the combination after Guliana Chenal-Minuzzo (bronze) in Cortina d’Ampezzo in 1956 and Karen Putzer (bronze) in St. Anton am Arlberg in 2001.
Shiffrin is expected to race three more times at the championships and will return to the slopes in Wednesday’s super-G. She is once again expected to be a medal contender in the event, having placed seventh and first in her two super-Gs on the World Cup this year.
“What if I don’t finish every run like what happened last year? I survived and I’ve had some pretty amazing races this season,” she continued to Dampf. “So I would take the season that I’ve had with no medals at the world championships. But I’m going to be pushing for medals because that’s what you do at world champs. … And I’m not afraid of the consequences as long as I have that mentality, which I had today. So, it’s good.”