Wendy Holdener

Wendy Holdener
AP

Holdener wins Alpine combined title at worlds, again

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ARE, Sweden — Wendy Holdener retained her Alpine combined title at the skiing world championships Friday by beating Petra Vlhova by 0.03 seconds.

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.

The Swiss racer was in fifth place after the downhill leg, and lost time on Vlhova in the top section of the slalom. She was tied with the Slovakian skier after the third checkpoint, but made up ground in the final stretch.

Ragnhild Mowinckel of Norway was third, 0.45 seconds behind Holdener.

Watch the men’s downhill on Saturday, 6:25 a.m. ET

Everything fell into place for Holdener, with her two biggest threats — Mikaela Shiffrin and Michelle Gisin — not competing in the event. Shiffrin, who won the super-G on Tuesday, was sitting it out to preserve energy for next week’s giant slalom and slalom, while Gison was sidelined because of a knee injury.

Then the downhill leg of the event was shortened because of poor visibility, giving slalom specialists — like Holdener — a crucial advantage.

She was in a good position after a clean run in the downhill, with only Ramona Siebenhofer, Ilka Stuhec and then Mowinckel ahead of her. Corinne Suter was in fourth place but decided to skip the slalom.

Unheralded Canadian skier Roni Remme went off under the floodlights at No. 3 in the slalom and held the lead until Vlhova — eighth after the downhill — claimed the lead.

Holdener went two skiers later and started with an advantage of 0.30 seconds over Vlhova. That was soon wiped out. But to the backdrop of cowbells and loud cheers by Swiss fans, Holdener clawed it back and stretched at the finish line to edge in front of Vlhova.

Mowinckel held onto third place, 0.04 seconds ahead of Siebenhofer — the leader after the downhill.

The winner of the event is determined by adding the times from one high-speed downhill run and one shorter slalom leg.

With seven skiers — including Lindsey Vonn — choosing not to take part in the slalom leg, the field was reduced to 26 competitors.

It further damages an event that is already under threat as the International Ski Federation decides on the future of Alpine skiing’s original Olympic discipline, which was introduced at the 1936 Winter Games. FIS could replace Alpine combined with parallel slalom racing at future Olympics and world championships.

The men’s combined is on Monday.

Mikaela Shiffrin can clinch World Cup overall title Friday

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Mikaela Shiffrin will mathematically clinch a second straight World Cup overall title if she finishes sixth or better in a World Cup giant slalom on Friday, her first race since taking gold and silver medals at the PyeongChang Olympics.

The race in Ofterschwang, Germany, is scheduled for 5 a.m. ET (first run) and 8 a.m. (second run), both streaming on OlympicChannel.com and the Olympic Channel app. Olympic Channel will air TV coverage at 7:30 a.m. The women also race a slalom Saturday on the Olympic Channel.

Shiffrin leads the season standings with 1,513 points through 33 of 39 scheduled races, thanks largely to a run of 10 wins in 14 starts between Thanksgiving and Jan. 9.

Swiss Wendy Holdener is in second place with 952 points, putting her 561 points behind with six races left.

A skier can receive a maximum of 100 points per race (that’s for a win), so Holdener would pretty much need to win out and have Shiffrin ski out of the remaining races to pull off one of the most improbable comebacks in sports history.

Holdener said last weekend that “there is no chance” she overtakes Shiffrin, according to The Associated Press.

“I am second, and it would be nice if it stays that way,” she said, according to the AP.

Shiffrin skipped last weekend’s super-G and super combined in Crans-Montana, Switzerland. As did Lindsey Vonn, who is also missing this weekend’s technical events (not her specialties) but will return for the World Cup Finals in Are, Sweden, next week.

If Shiffrin wins two more races between the next two weeks, she will match Vonn’s record for most wins in a World Cup season by an American.

If Shiffrin wins four of the final six races (unlikely but possible), she would tie Swiss Vreni Schneider‘s record for wins in a season by any skier.

A World Cup overall repeat will put Shiffrin halfway to Vonn’s four career overall titles, the annual prize that goes to the world’s best all-around skier.

Shiffrin is also in the running for season titles in the giant slalom and slalom. She is 81 points behind German Viktoria Rebensburg for the GS title and leads the slalom standings by 175 points. There are two races left in each of those disciplines.

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MORE: Best Alpine skiing moments of PyeongChang Olympics

Lindsey Vonn just misses podium in World Cup combined

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Lindsey Vonn couldn’t hang onto the podium in the slalom run of a World Cup combined Friday, going from first after the morning super-G to finish fourth in Lenzerheide, Switzerland.

Wendy Holdener, the world champion in the combined, made up a .71 deficit on Vonn after the super-G to win by 1.55 seconds over Italian Marta Bassino.

Slovenia’s Ana Bucik ended up third despite being 30th in the super-G. Vonn was 1.88 back of the Swiss Holdener.

Holdener was fifth overall after the super-G run but also the most decorated slalom skier in the field.

Full results are here.

Vonn led Italian Federica Brignone by six tenths after the super-G, but Vonn struggles in slalom. It’s the one event the 79-time World Cup race winner definitely will not race in PyeongChang.

She had the 17th-fastest slalom run of the top 30 skiers from the super-G.

The Olympic combined medal favorites are tougher to gauge due to the fact that Friday’s race marked the only combined this season before the Winter Games.

Vonn is certainly in the mix. She was fifth in the combined at last season’s world championships.

“That’s why I’m starting [Friday’s race], so I can see how it feels for the Olympics and know how much I need to improve if I want to get a medal,” Vonn said.

Mikaela Shiffrin, who didn’t contest the combined at worlds but is nonetheless an Olympic medal favorite, skipped Friday’s race to rest. She is expected to headline a giant slalom Saturday and slalom Sunday in Lenzerheide.

Coverage will be on NBCSN and streaming on OlympicChannel.com and the Olympic Channel app.

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MORE: Alpine skiing season broadcast schedule