SCHLADMING, Austria – Aksel Lund Svindal already has two medals from the opening two races at the Alpine skiing world championships. Expect him to get a third in Monday’s super-combined.
Svindal is the two-time defending world champion in the event, which combines the times from one downhill run and one slalom leg.
If the first run goes like it did in Sunday’s race, when Svindal won the gold medal in downhill by a large margin, the Norwegian could have a big lead entering the slalom leg.
“He has to have a big lead because I think the slalom is going to be pretty tough for the downhillers,” said Ivica Kostelic, the Croatian who has won five World Cup super-combined races.
The downhill run is scheduled for 10 a.m. local time (0900 GMT), with the slalom leg under the lights at 6:15 p.m. (1715 GMT).
Other contenders include Alexis Pinturault of France, who won the only previous super-combined this season in Wengen; Silvan Zurbriggen, who finished sixth in the downhill and began his career as a slalom skier, and Swiss teammate Carlo Janka, the 2009-10 overall World Cup winner; Italians Christof Innerhofer and Peter Fill, who took silver and bronze behind Svindal in Garmisch-Partenkirchen two years ago; and Austrian veteran Benjamin Raich, the 2005-06 overall winner.
Ted Ligety, the American who won the combined under the old format with two slalom runs at the 2006 Turin Olympics, could also be a threat.
However, Ligety has never been on the podium in super-combined.
“Everybody expects big things but right now we got to focus on a good downhill run and a good slalom run,” U.S. head coach Sasha Rearick said. “That’s what we got to put the effort into.”
Ligety had a podium finish in sight in Wengen last month until his right ski slipped free two-thirds down his slalom run. In the traditional combined in Kitzbuehel a few weeks ago, Ligety missed a gate early in his first slalom run.
The toughest challenge for Ligety this time should be the downhill.
“It’s definitely more of a gliders’ course and a lot of terrain,” said Ligety, who opened the championships by winning the super-G. “It’s pretty awkward, it doesn’t really flow that well. It’s a lot harder for me to do this downhill than a downhill like Kitzbuehel, so hopefully I can figure it out.”
With 2010 Olympic champion Bode Miller out for the season recovering from left knee surgery, and Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud also injuring his left knee in the super-G, Kostelic likes his chances.
“My goal is podium. I hope the knee will be in good enough condition to race at top level,” said Kostelic, who has struggled with knee problems his entire career. “I’m pretty optimistic.”
A slalom specialist, Kostelic hired former Italian downhiller Kristian Ghedina to coach him in the speed disciplines this season.
“It’s good to have a guy with so much experience because I’m not an experienced downhiller,” Kostelic said. “I’m always interested to hear Kristian’s advice on technical stuff and tactics as well.”