American skier Mikaela Shiffrin missed what looked like a certain gold medal Monday on the opening day of the world championships, skiing out of the women’s combined race with the finish in sight.
Shiffrin straddled the third-to-last gate in her slalom run while appearing to be close to beating first-run leader and eventual winner Federica Brignone of Italy.
“It doesn’t happen very often, no. I felt like I was skiing really well,” Shiffrin, who was the defending champion in the race, said from Meribel, France. “I had a really good run.”
Shiffrin was competing in her first major event since failing to win a medal in six starts at last year’s Beijing Olympics.
The American is having a standout season on the World Cup circuit, where has has won 11 races, including five slaloms, from 23 starts and looks to be on the way to her fifth overall title — generally regarded the most important prize in ski racing.
WATCH | Shiffrin skis out near end of Monday’s slalom at worlds:
She won three races within six days two weeks ago to raise her career tally to 85 World Cup wins, beating former teammate Lindsey Vonn’s women’s record of 82 and moving within one of the overall record set by Swedish great Ingemar Stenmark in the 1970s and 80s.
World championship races do not count toward World Cup wins.
Shiffrin was trailing Brignone by 0.96 seconds after the super-G portion but had made up 0.88 of that difference before skiing out.
The combined event adds the results of a super-G run and a slalom run.
“The only way I have a chance is to ski full, full gas. So I was doing that, take the risk that you don’t finish,” said Shiffrin, whose next race at worlds is the super-G on Wednesday. “This is what you have to do if you want to earn a medal at the world championships. On the end, it was like letting it go to the finish just one gate too soon and then you’re out.”
Shiffrin reacted with apparent open-mouthed astonishment before bending over her ski poles. She then went over to Brignone and embraced the Italian skier who won in a combined time of one minute 10.28 seconds.
WATCH | Brignone takes combined event in historic performance:
“So, that’s disappointing, but it’s always quite positive how I was skiing,” said Shiffrin, whose next race at the worlds is the super-G on Wednesday. “I have some work to do to figure out where I can make up some time in the super-G. It’s so much fun to ski this hill so I’m looking forward to it.”
She has won six world titles and 11 overall medals in total from 13 previous starts at world championships.
Wendy Holdener of Switzerland was second in 1:59.09 followed by Austria’s Ricarda Haaser (1:59.73).
Marie-Michèle Gagnon of Lac-Etchemin, Que., was top Canadian in 2:02.38, climbing to 10th after sitting 18th following the super-G. Valérie Grenier of St. Isidore, Ont., stood ninth after super-G and placed 14th overall (2:04.10).
WATCH | Gagnon’s 10th-place effort in France good for top Canadian honours:
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