ARE, Sweden (AP) — Wendy Holdener retained her Alpine combined title at the skiing world championships Friday by beating Petra Vlhova by 0.03 seconds.
The Swiss racer was in fifth place after the downhill leg, and lost time on Vlhova in the top section of the slalom. She was tied with the Slovakian skier after the third checkpoint, but made up ground in the final stretch.
Holdener, who also won the team event at last year’s Pyeongchang Olympics, has now earned gold medals at three straight major championships. She is the fifth woman to win back-to-back world titles in the combined.
Ragnhild Mowinckel of Norway was third, 0.45 seconds behind Holdener.
Everything fell into place for Holdener, with her two biggest threats — Mikaela Shiffrin and Michelle Gisin — not competing in the event. Shiffrin, who won the super-G on Tuesday, was sitting it out to preserve energy for next week’s giant slalom and slalom, while Gison was sidelined because of a knee injury.
Then the downhill leg of the event was shortened because of poor visibility, giving slalom specialists — like Holdener — a crucial advantage.
She was in a good position after a clean run in the downhill, with only Ramona Siebenhofer, Ilka Stuhec and then Mowinckel ahead of her. Corinne Suter was in fourth place but decided to skip the slalom.
Unheralded Canadian skier Roni Remme went off under the floodlights at No. 3 in the slalom and held the lead until Vlhova — eighth after the downhill — claimed the lead.
Holdener went two skiers later and started with an advantage of 0.30 seconds over Vlhova. That was soon wiped out.
But to the backdrop of cowbells and loud cheers by Swiss fans, Holdener clawed it back and stretched at the finish line to edge in front of Vlhova.
Mowinckel held onto third place, 0.04 seconds ahead of Siebenhofer — the leader after the downhill.
The winner of the event is determined by adding the times from one high-speed downhill run and one shorter slalom leg.
With seven skiers — including Lindsey Vonn — choosing not to take part in the slalom leg, the field was reduced to 26 competitors.
It further damages an event that is already under threat as the International Ski Federation decides on the future of Alpine skiing’s original Olympic discipline, which was introduced at the 1936 Winter Games.
FIS could replace Alpine combined with parallel slalom racing at future Olympics and world championships.
The men’s combined is on Monday.