It was yet another day of questionable weather and delays in Are, Sweden, for the men’s World Championship alpine combined on Monday. High winds and low visibility at the top of the mountain forced the downhill portion of the race to be delayed by an hour and the start lowered to the reserve super-G start, resulting in a downhill run that lasted just over a minute.
Due to the shortened downhill, times were tight as 30th place was only 1.88 seconds back from the fastest time set by Italy’s Dominik Paris, giving the slalom skiers a distinct advantage heading into the evening’s slalom run under the lights. Paris was followed closely by the United States’ Ryan Cochran-Siegle, who sat in second, only 0.03 seconds off the pace.
Slovenia’s Stefan Hadalin was the lucky slalom skier to find himself in 30th after the first run and took full advantage of a fresh course, setting the fastest slalom run of the day. France’s Alexis Pinturault, one of the best combined skiers in the world over the last several seasons, followed Hadalin a handful of racers later and managed to sneak in front of the Slovenian by 0.24 seconds after his slalom run. Austria’s Marco Schwarz, himself a top-tier slalom skier and winner of this year’s combined in Wengen, Switzerland, held on to slide into third place, 0.46 seconds back after finishing 21st in the downhill portion.
After the flip thirty was completed, the podium remained unchanged as Paris and Cochran-Siegle could not match Pinturault’s pace on the fast-deteriorating course, ultimately finishing ninth and 18th, respectively. Monday’s win was only Pinturault’s third career World Championship medal and first individual gold. The Frenchman also won a gold in the team event in 2017 and a bronze in giant slalom in 2015.
“I realized it just after the end because you never know,” Pinturault said of his agonizing wait in the finish. “Some downhillers can ski really fast, really well. Of course the slope today was a little bit more tricky and especially during the slalom run but it was a long time to wait. A lot of stress also because after my run, you know, I just have to wait and I can’t do anything after that.”
Not known for his skills in downhill and a rising talent on the slalom circuit, Hadalin capitalized on a bit of luck in his downhill run to find himself as the first racer out of the gate in the slalom. With snow that was set to rut up and only get slower as the race progressed, the Slovenian knew he had a great opportunity in front of him.
“Yes, crazy,” Hadalin shared. “I do not even know what to say. I took my chance. I did not take the best ski in the downhill with some errors, so I already thought it would not be enough for the thirty. But it happened. I knew that the slalom conditions for the higher numbers would not be easy. I said, ‘This is your chance, grab it.’ I tried, played well tactically and technically and this was enough for a medal.”
Schwarz entered Monday as one of the pre-race favorites after a stunning win last month in the combined in Wengen. After a solid downhill performance, Schwarz was not able to keep pace with Pinturault and Hadalin on the deteriorating slalom course. Crossing the line in third, the Austrian was dreading another fourth-place finish like he was in the 2018 Olympic combined.
“It’s a great start for me at my first race and a first medal so I’m really happy,” he said after the race. “The downhill run was pretty ok, a few mistakes but the situation was pretty good. Slalom started at night so the slope was ok. The course was normal slalom but the slope was not that good but I’m really, really happy. I had the same feeling like at the Olympics, where I went fourth. I went through the finish and was third and 20 more guys were at the top so I couldn’t think of a medal at that point but now I have this and that’s great.”
The American contingent was led by Bryce Bennett in 11th place with two solid runs. Cochran-Siegle fell victim to course conditions in the slalom after starting 29th and slid all the way back to 18th. Ted Ligety elected to sit out the slalom run after finishing 42nd in the downhill.
“I think with slalom it’s just the deterioration,” Cochran-Siegle said of his slalom run. “The course workers did all they could to prepare the slope but it always deteriorates, especially after 30 skiers. I think for me I really needed to be disciplined, ski into the top of the turn and release, and I think I was just holding on a lot. After having a really good downhill run you want to have that good slalom finish and I think I was just holding on too much.”
Monday was Cochran-Siegle’s first time sitting in podium position after a first run but was not shaken by the added pressure of TV cameras at the start and American fans hoping for a medal at the finish.
“I don’t think it was too hard,” he added. “As a ski racer, you’re put into some pretty high-pressure situations, so you learn how to adapt and how to deal with it. It was fun to be in that second-place position going into this run, there was a little bit of tension and I was trying to focus on my skiing and I think I could have skied better but at the end of the day, it was a good day.”
The men and women will now race the team event in Are on Tuesday, February 12.
- Alexis Pinturault (FRA)- Head/Head/Head
- Stefan Hadalin (SLO)- Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Marco Schwarz (AUT)- Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Ricardo Tonetti (ITA)- Blizzard/Tecnica/Marker
- Linus Strasser (GER)- Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Victor Muffat-Jeandet (FRA)- Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
- Mauro Caviezel (SUI)- Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Luca Aerni (SUI)- Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
- Dominik Paris (ITA)- Nordica/Nordica/Marker
- Felix Monsen (SWE)- Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
For complete FIS results, please click here.