PYEONGCHANG, South Korea, Feb 12 (Reuters) - France’s Alexis Pinturault starts as favourite for Tuesday’s men’s combined event at the Jeongseon Alpine Centre where the sport’s true all-rounder will be crowned.
The combined consists of a downhill and slalom race with the winner gaining the fastest aggregate time. It requires an ability to be at the highest level in both the technical and turning skills of slalom and the pure speed of downhill.
Pinturault is the most successful skier in the format in recent years having won four World Cup season titles, most recently in 2017.
After a disappointing run of form in January, Pinturault decided to take four days off on the Japanese island of Okinawa to re-charge his batteries.
“The goal was to take a break, recover and put back juice” he said. “Right now I’m going for my best medal chance, I’ll have to take a chance, the goal is gold.”
The 26-year-old’s only Olympic success so far was a bronze in giant slalom in Sochi four years ago.
The bookmakers have Austria’s Marcel Hirscher among the favourites for the combined, hardly surprising given his all-round skills have delivered six successive overall World Cup titles with a seventh currently within his grasp.
But Hirscher, who despite his dominance of the sport has yet to win an Olympic gold, believes Pinturault and his fellow Frenchman Victor Muffat-Jeandet are the ones to beat and worries about his own ability in the downhill.
“The favorites are Pinturault and Muffat-Jeandet,” said Hirscher.
“After the training, the (podium) expectations are pretty low, I have to be in the first 30 of the downhill to get a good bib in slalom, and it’s not going to be easy.”
Weather problems have led to the cancellation of the final downhill training session and the postponement of the downhill final itself until Thursday, meaning that Hirscher and his rivals have less opportunity to get used to the course.
But unlike his Austrian rival, Muffat-Jeandet, who won a recent combined race in Wengen, is feeling good about the speed half of the combined.
“I have to concentrate on the downhill, I’ve been really happy about this downhill since the beginning, I do not find it too easy either,” said the Frenchman.
“I’m pretty happy with the training”.
The other contenders in the combined include Italian Peter Fill who leads the World Cup standings in the combined and Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud, the Super-G gold medallist from Sochi, who is currently second. (Editing by Greg Stutchbury)