Mikaela Shiffrin was perfectly poised in her bid for an elusive individual Olympic medal at the Beijing Games after posting the fifth fastest downhill time in the women’s alpine combined on Thursday.
The American finished 0.56 seconds off the lead pace set by Austrian Christine Scheyer, who edged Czech cross-code star Ester Ledecka into second by one-hundredth of a second.
An emotional Shiffrin revealed that she had used downhill skis belonging to Italian Sofia Goggia, who won silver in the downhill proper and is a rival to the American for the World Cup overall title.
“She actually wrote a small message on them… I saw it and I almost started crying,” Shiffrin said.
After failing to finish in her favoured events of the slalom and giant slalom, Shiffrin regained some pride with ninth place in the super-G and 18th in the downhill, but the combined remains her last chance for an individual medal ahead of the programme-ending mixed team parallel event on Saturday.
The combined concludes with an afternoon slalom, a discipline in which Shiffrin is a four-time word champion and Olympic gold medallist in 2014.
“The slalom really couldn’t be further away from downhill, it’s like a totally different sport,” said Shiffrin, who also won giant slalom gold in the 2018 Pyeongchang Games.
“It’s nice to know I have some practice and certainly a lot of speed in slalom.
“But I also have to overcome the image that I am going to ski out on the fifth gate.
“I am just trying to stay calm because I think I was doing pretty well with that this morning. Stay calm and have a good run at slalom.”
The 26-year-old will be expected to quickly recoup time in the slalom that she lost to skiers more adept at downhill.
Among her rivals able to also make up time in the technical event include the Swiss pair of Wendy Holdener and reigning Olympic champion Michelle Gisin.
Holdener, a two-time former world combined champion and bronze medallist at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games, finished the downhill 0.43sec adrift of Shiffrin while Gisin was at 0.44sec.
Gisin and Holdener are seeking a second medal at these Games, both having also won bronze medals in the super-G and slalom respectively.