Morning Chronicle - Pinturault eyes elusive Olympic combined gold

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Pinturault eyes elusive Olympic combined gold
Pinturault eyes elusive Olympic combined gold

Pinturault eyes elusive Olympic combined gold

France's Alexis Pinturault will have a crack at an elusive Olympic gold when he takes on the Beijing 2022 men's alpine combined on Wednesday.

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Pinturault won silver in Pyeongchang in 2018 behind now-retired Austrian Marcel Hirscher.

Pinturault's Olympic challenge in Beijing opened with an 11th place in Tuesday's super-G, the Frenchman having also raced in downhill training.

"It's important, it launches me into the Games," Pinturault said of his super-G outing, describing it as leaving him with a feeling of "glass half-empty".

"For me it's just a question of keeping my positivity," he added, saying it was vital to spend as much time as possible on the pistes, previously untested after World Cup races here were cancelled in 2020 and 2021 because of Covid-19 restrictions.

"I'll have some great runs behind me," Pinturault said.

He has had more success in the nordic combined in world championships, claiming gold in 2019 in Are, Sweden and taking silver behind Austria's Marco Schwarz last year in Cortina.

The combined, although shelved on the World Cup circuit, is the oldest alpine event, invented in the Swiss resort of Wengen in 1932 and adopted for the Olympics four years later.

It remains the ultimate challenge for all-round skiers. First up is a downhill run, followed by a slalom in the afternoon.

The top 30 finishers in the downhill start in that order in the slalom, often ending in a nail-biting climax as the technical skiers make up time on those who are stronger downhillers.

While the concept still stands, the combined has proven tough to host on the World Cup, notably with technical and speed skiers become even more specialised.

Among strong contenders for a medal will likely be Switzerland's Loic Meillard, who flies well under the radar of the publicity surrounding his teammate and World Cup overall leader Marco Odermatt.

A bronze medallist in both the combined and parallel at the 2021 world championships, the 25-year-old looked comfortable in downhill training at the National Alpine Skiing Centre in Yanqing.

He has also failed to finish in just one slalom race this season, while Pinturault has not completed four out of six races.

There is also Norway's Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, who went into the speed events as one of the hot favourites, but came away with just a bronze in the super-G.

His teammate Kjetil Jansrud said Kilde had "a chance, it depends on the conditions of slalom".

Jansrud explained that if officials add water to the surface to make a more difficult slalom course "then I don’t think we will have downhillers compete. You're probably going to have more slalom specialists grabbing it."