Mikaela Shiffrin was perfectly poised to bag her seventh world gold medal after finishing sixth fastest in the opening super-G of the women’s alpine combined in Meribel on Monday.
Shiffrin was 0.96 seconds off the lead time set by Italy’s Federica Brignone, who will be gunning for a podium finish to follow up on her Olympic bronze in the same discipline.
Having won five slaloms this season in her charge on Ingemar Stenmark’s record for overall World Cup victories, Shiffrin will be confident going into the technical second run, scheduled for 1330 GMT on the same Roc de Fer piste, albeit with a big push required to best her rivals.
A seventh world title would see Shiffrin match the post-World War II individual record shared by Austrian Toni Sailer, France’s Marielle Goitschel and former Swedish racer Anja Paerson.
Joint second fastest in the super-G, raced in sunny, cold conditions, was Switzerland’s Lara Gut-Behrami, who announced her arrival to the elite ski circuit as a precocious teenager when the worlds were last held in France, in Val d’Isere in 2009.
Norway’s Ragnhild Mowinckel matched Gut-Behrami’s time, at 0.71sec, but neither racer will compete in the slalom, which will feature just 20 athletes from the original 33-strong start list: five crashed out of the super-G and eight are listed ‘DNS’ (did not start) for the slalom.
Others to opt out, preferring just to have used the super-G as a reconnaissance run for the speed events, included Slovenia’s two-time former world downhill champion Ilka Stuhec, France’s two-time world giant slalom gold medallist Tessa Worley and Italy’s 2018 Olympic downhill champion Sofia Goggia.
Another Italian, Elena Curtoni, was fourth (+0.78) in the super-G, just ahead of Austrian Ramona Siebenhofer and Shiffrin — theoretically in fourth after Gut-Behrami and Mowinckel’s withdrawal from the slalom.
Two-time Olympic champion Michelle Gisin and her Swiss teammate Wendy Holdener, a two-time former world combined champion who claimed Olympic silver in Beijing, remain in the running despite finishing 1.58 and 1.66sec respectively off Brignone’s pace.
One notable absentee from the startlist was Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova, who decided to sit out the combined to focus on next week’s slalom and giant slalom.
The women’s combined is the first of 13 medal events — comprising six women’s races, six men’s races and one mixed-gender team event — at the biennial worlds in Meribel and Courchevel, which run until February 19.