The Hong Kong Telegraph - In search of medals, Shiffrin gets downhill finetuning before combined

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In search of medals, Shiffrin gets downhill finetuning before combined
In search of medals, Shiffrin gets downhill finetuning before combined

In search of medals, Shiffrin gets downhill finetuning before combined

Mikaela Shiffrin got a boost Tuesday in her hunt for an elusive medal at the Beijing Olympics when she had an invaluable run-out in the downhill.

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The American will be hot favourite for the alpine combined event on Thursday.

Shiffrin came 18th in the downhill, 2.49sec behind Switzerland's gold medal winner Corinne Suter, in the ultimate test of speed that she admits she has not practised for in two years.

But training runs on the same "Rock" course and the downhill proper, Shiffrin explained, had given her some invaluable time on the same slope that will also feature in the combined.

After failing to finish in her favoured events of the slalom and giant slalom, 26-year-old Shiffrin regained some pride with ninth place in the super-G before taking on the downhill, and confirmed she will also take part in the mixed team event on Saturday.

First up, however, is the alpine combined, which incorporates a morning downhill followed by a slalom.

"I am able to learn a lot about the track but when the speeds get up - it's much faster today - and you feel that speed in some sections, that's when I start to fight the speed rather than going with it," Shiffrin said, describing the sensation as "like it is pushing you around everywhere".

"It's just important to be able to compartmentalise the downhill run, be fully focused on the downhill run and then start the slalom portion of the run as if it's a new day.

"That's really hard to do - combined days are long and the events could not be more opposite; it's like doing two different sports in one day."

- Nothing is guaranteed -

Shiffrin's bid to finally add to her two previous Olympic gold medals, in the slalom in the 2014 Sochi Games and giant slalom four years ago in Pyeongchang, was boosted by the withdrawal of Petra Vlhova.

After winning gold in the slalom, the Slovak racer complained of an ankle injury and returned home.

"There are a few girls who have a really good shot at the combined, putting together a solid downhill run and a solid slalom run, and Petra was one of them," Shiffrin said.

The American, with a wry smile after her own experiences in China, warned that "nothing is guaranteed and that's the number one lesson many people learn at the Olympic Games".

"There is no guarantee for anything, not for form, not for results."

Her main competition in the combined will likely come from the Swiss pair of Michelle Gisin and Wendy Holdener, who have both won bronze medals at these Games, in the super-G and slalom respectively.

Czech cross-code star Ester Ledecka will also be in the running after failing to trouble the podium in either the super-G or downhill.

"I hope I’ll enjoy it," Ledecka said of the combined. "I didn’t really train slalom as much, just once actually this year.

"I’ll try my best and we’ll see what happens," said the Czech, who will return home with at least one gold, having retained her snowboard parallel giant slalom title.