Pinturault braves tough conditions to take combined gold
By Philip O'Connor
STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Alexis Pinturault of France burst out of the pack to claim the gold in the men's combined event at the Alpine World Skiing Championships in Are on Monday as the Swedish weather once again made it tough for the competitors.
With Olympic champion Marcel Hirscher skipping the race, Stefan Hadalin of Slovenia made the most of being first out on the slalom course to take the silver medal, 0.24 seconds behind the winner.
Third-placed Marco Schwarz of Austria was left to rue a less-than-perfect second run that left him settling for bronze, 0.22 seconds further back.
The weather conditions once again played havoc with the best-laid plans of the organizers, with falling snow and high winds forcing them to shorten the course and delaying the action throughout the day.
Dominik Paris of Italy led the field by three hundredths of a second after the delayed downhill run, with Ryan Cochran-Siegle of the United States hot on his heels and Aleksander Aamodt Kilde of Norway 0-35 seconds further back.
Lying in 24th position after the downhill leg, Pinturault combined skilful slalom skiing with a considerable slice of luck as the worst of the weather held off during his decisive run.
He quickly found his rhythm, attacking the shortened slalom course with gusto, and his bravery was rewarded as he shot into the lead with a time of 38.92 seconds, giving him a total of 1:08.79.
Though he was 0.12 of a second slower than Hadalin on the slalom leg, Pinturault's better time on the downhill set him up for victory.
Having won team gold with France at the 2017 championships in St. Moritz, the gold medal in the combined is Pinturault's first individual world championship win, and he became the first Frenchman to win the event since Michel Vion in 1982.
"It's a big, big moment for me, for my family, for my team mates and for my partners also, because we worked so much this year and it looks like the work is paying back now," an elated Pinturault said.
After missing the podium in Pyeongchang last year, Marco Schwarz was disappointed with his run but delighted to hang on to third place.
"It was really difficult, the first guys had no chance with these tracks. It was a little bit soft and the track was not so good," he said, adding that he had learned some valuable lessons.
"Now I know the hill and I'm looking forward to the technique races," he said.
(Reporting by Philip O'Connor; Editing by Gareth Jones)
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