ALTENMARKT-ZAUCHENSEE, AUSTRIA – Federica Brignone won a World Cup Alpine combined event on Sunday after most top racers including Mikaela Shiffrin failed to complete a tricky opening super-G run.
Shiffrin skied out midway down in the morning for her first failure to finish a race in almost two years.
Brignone is now Shiffrin’s closest, though still distant, challenger in the overall World Cup standings with a victory that lifted her above Petra Vlhova, who lost a ski in her super-G.
Protecting her lead from the morning super-G, Brignone had a solid slalom run to end 0.15 seconds ahead of Wendy Holdener, the two-time world champion in combined.
In third place, Marta Bassino was 0.82 behind her Italian teammate Brignone. The same racers had been the three fastest on a super-G course which took out a slew of Olympic and worlds gold medalists.
Shiffrin slid out on her left hip when struggling to make a sharp turn needing to put pressure on the icy snow with her right ski. Seconds earlier, the bumpy surface knocked her right ski off line and forced her upright to regain balance.
The American star appeared unhurt and stood by the course for a moment reflecting on her unsettling race exit.
The last time Shiffrin did not finish a race was a World Cup slalom in January 2018 at Lenzerheide, Switzerland.
Shiffrin’s biggest rival, Slovakian Vlhova, lost a ski on a bumpy turn and crashed out. She skied down to the finish seemingly unhurt.
The Olympic and world champions in downhill, Sofia Goggia and Ilka Stuhec, also went out in the difficult mid-course section.
Michelle Gisin, who beat Shiffrin for the 2018 Olympic title in Alpine combined when Holdener took bronze, skied out by going wide of a tightly positioned gate.
Super-G can be more unpredictable than downhill because racers do not practice on the course. They just have a close-up look at the gate setting in an early-morning inspection.
Brignone avoided trouble to extend her fine season of consistent results. Her 12th career World Cup win was her fourth in combined. The three others were at Crans-Montana, Switzerland, in each of the past three seasons.
She now has five straight seasons with at least two race wins.
Holdener, who posted the fastest slalom time, earned her 35th podium finish in World Cup racing, though only three were wins.
A new format for Alpine combined was raced Sunday with the first-run leader also going first down a fresh slalom course. Previously, the top-30 racers started in reverse order with the leader getting 30th use of a roughed-up slalom course.