Women’s combined an entirely new race
ARE, Sweden – One thing is certain for the women’s combined race at skiing’s world championships. There will be a new winner from the last four major competitions.That’s because Janica Kostelic, who won the title at the last two worlds and the last two Olympics, is taking this season off. Anja Paerson, Marlies Schild and Americans Julia Mancuso and Lindsey Kildow are the new favorites.Paerson and Schild finished second and third at the last worlds in Bormio, Italy, two years ago and the order was reversed at the Turin Olympics last year.”Marlies Schild and I will have a bit of a showdown this time,” Paerson said. “We both want to put pressure on each other ahead of the slalom. She knows I’m skiing well now, and I think the Austrians would like for me to not have good results in the next events. They want to tighten it up, so I don’t have one of those super weeks.”
Paerson won the opening super-G on Tuesday. The combined race is scheduled for Friday.Schild won the opening World Cup combined race this season and didn’t race the super-G here, although she doubted she would be fresher than Paerson and the other favorites.”I don’t think so. I think they’re fresh too and they will ski fast too,” Schild said.Mancuso and Kildow finished 1-2 in the only other combined run on the World Cup circuit this season. Another American – Resi Stiegler – was fourth.”It’s mainly me and Marlies Schild, but then the Americans could also show up,” Paerson said.
For the first time at a major championship, the combined will be run in the super-combi format of one downhill run and one slalom leg instead of one downhill and two slaloms.”It’s a lot more fair,” Kildow said. “It suits me, Julia and Resi really well. I think we all have a really great chance to medal.”Kildow and Mancuso are better at downhill than slalom. Paerson excels at both disciplines but has struggled in slalom this season following knee surgery. Schild is the top slalom skier this season and slower in downhill.”I have to try and get as far ahead of Schild as I possibly can, and then just go absolutely insanely straight and fast in the slalom, and hopefully I’ll be there,” Kildow said.Mancuso had hip surgery in the offseason and still feels pain when she skis slalom. She also has a shin problem. She’ll have the same strategy as Kildow.
“I need a really fast downhill again so I don’t have too much time to lose in the slalom,” Mancuso said.Other challengers include the other three members of Austria’s team – Nicole Hosp, Michaela Kirchgasser and Kathrin Zettel. They are all better slalom skiers than downhillers, though, and will have a tougher time with the new format.”It’s better for slalom racers to have more runs but I think it’s OK because it’s much fairer for the downhillers,” Hosp said.Kildow said Schild is the favorite.”I feel like Schild is skiing better in slalom right now,” Kildow said. “Anja has got her feeling back in speed. But I don’t think she’s trained as much because of her knee. She’s always a strong competitor. But I think Schild is definitely the one to beat.”