By Nick Mulvenney
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) - Mikaela Shiffrin said she was relieved that the decision to reschedule the combined event to Thursday from Friday had effectively ruled her out of competing in the downhill at the Pyeongchang Olympics.
The American had always been in two minds about racing the downhill on Wednesday but the decision to withdraw from the event was made for her when the combined was moved forward by a day because of high winds forecast for the Jeongseon mountain.
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After winning the women's giant slalom but only finishing fourth as favorite in the regular slalom, Shiffrin's hopes of a claiming a second Pyeongchang gold appeared stronger in the combined than the downhill.
"I had qualified already coming into these Olympics so the decision was basically up to me. Knowing how strong our downhill team was, I wasn't sure," she explained after setting the fifth fastest time in third downhill training on Tuesday.
"If I had won every training run, then I would have probably thought differently, but as I was struggling to find my timing, struggling to find my aerodynamic position yesterday, having the Alpine combined was actually a relief to me.
"Okay, it's not ideal at all, I'd rather have raced and then had a day off but I didn't want to take a position from girls who have the potential to be in the top five or medal positions. I'm excited to watch them."
The dominant female slalom skier in the world at the moment, Shiffrin's impressive run on the Jeongseon slope on Tuesday will make her a strong favorite for the combined.
"The track is just fantastic," she added.
"I think it's a dream for everybody to ski on this course. That run today was much more what I was looking for as far as being relaxed goes.
"Yesterday, I was a little bit tense, the day before I was a little bit conservative but today I put something together that I'm really excited about and I'm looking forward to taking that into the combined."
(Fixes spelling of Shiffrin in first paragraph)
(Editing by John O'Brien)