CORTINA D’AMPEZZO, Italy (Reuters) – American Mikaela Shiffrin claimed a record-breaking ninth world championships podium finish by taking gold in the women’s combined on Monday and said winning a medal was a bonus on top of the adrenaline rush alpine skiing generates.
The 25-year-old from Vail, Colorado topped the standings in the combined event after an impeccable two-leg performance which saw her spring from third in the super-G to first place after brushing aside her rivals in the slalom.
Shiffrin surpassed compatriot Lindsey Vonn with a ninth overall world championships medal, having racked up her sixth gold and first at this year’s event after taking bronze in Thursday’s super-G.
She said winning was the icing on the cake in a sport where several hundredths of a second can make all the difference.
“I always try to be on top, not because of the records but because I like to ski fast,” the twice Olympic gold medallist told a news conference.
“It’s amazing to win a gold medal on any day at any race but today was just spectacular.”
Shiffrin trailed Italians Federica Brignone and Elena Curtoni after the morning super-G although her job was made somewhat easier when Brignone crashed out of the slalom.
First out of the block, the Italian lost her balance at the second gate which led to her missing the third and Curtoni then enjoyed a relatively smooth run to take the overall lead.
Her joy was short-lived, though, as Shiffrin stormed down the treacherous course to build an insurmountable lead as the rivals who followed could not get anywhere near her time.
Second-placed Slovakian Petra Vlhova finished 0.86 seconds behind Shiffrin and Swiss Michelle Gisin in third was 0.89 seconds off the pace, with 14 of the 30 participants failing to finish the demanding slalom course.
For Shiffrin, who thrives in adverse conditions, it was something of a cakewalk.
“The last few days have been fun and it’s really nice to win a medal,” she said. “I had a really good super-G run, it set up well for the slalom portion and I was able to push in difficult conditions.”
Shiffrin will now be hot favourite to add to her medal haul in the women’s giant slalom scheduled for Thursday and the slalom, her strongest event, on Saturday.
(Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic; Editing by Ken Ferris)