ARE, SWEDEN - Everything fell into place for Wendy Holdener.
Her two biggest challengers — Mikaela Shiffrin and Michelle Gisin — weren’t competing in the Alpine combined at the skiing world championships. Then the downhill portion of the event was shortened because of poor visibility, giving slalom specialists like Holdener a crucial advantage.
The Swiss racer just needed to nail her two runs to successfully defend the world title she won in St. Moritz in 2017.
She did exactly that, but only just.
Fifth after the downhill portion, Holdener was tied with Petra Vlhova under the floodlights after the third checkpoint in the slalom leg. Holdener then made up ground in the final stretch to edge Vlhova by 0.03 seconds and retain what may prove to be the last-ever combined title.
For the 25-year-old Holdener, the win was especially satisfying after achieving 20 podiums in World Cup slalom races without getting a victory.
“Finally I could put two good runs together and bring home the victory,” she said. “It’s the right time.”
Ragnhild Mowinckel of Norway was third, 0.45 seconds behind Holdener.
Holdener, who also won the team event at last year’s Pyeongchang Olympics, has now earned gold medals at three straight major championships. She is the fifth woman to win back-to-back world titles in the combined.