Canadian James Crawford stunned the field when he took pole position in the men’s combined event at the world alpine skiing championships as he clinched the super-G with a time 0.08 seconds ahead of Frenchman Alexis Pinturault on Monday.
Down in 32nd position on the starting grid, Crawford produced a flawless run to finish ahead of a stack of more heralded rivals before the afternoon’s slalom leg of the event.
Pinturault finished 0.22 seconds ahead of third-placed Austrian Vincent Kriechmayr, who is bidding for his third gold medal of the championships after he claimed the downhill and super-G golds last week.
Beaten by Kriechmayer in the super-G on Thursday and having to settle for the bronze medal, Pinturault turned the tables on his rival in the first half of the combined event with an aggressive and risky approach.
But 23-year old upstart Crawford, who has a gold medal from the 2017 junior world championships team event to his name, edged both favourites as he surged fearlessly down the course.
Having taken a perfect line in the upper half which allowed him to carry the speed into the home straight, Crawford pointed out that he needed to rediscover his slalom skills quickly in order to vie for a medal.
“I guess about five years ago I used to be quite the slalom skier but since we’ve moved to speed, it’s definitely regressed a bit,” he told Eurosport.
“Hopefully I can bring back some of that slalom stuff. The snow here is a lot like in Canada and it definitely felt like home. It was pure confidence and I didn’t have a worry in the world with a high (bib) number.”
Pinturault was still optimistic about his chances of winning his first gold medal of the championships.
“It was a good run and the important thing was not to make a mistake. I skied well and I am satisfied.”
The slalom leg of the combined event will feature a host of medal candidates, with fourth-placed Austrian Matthias Mayer 0.32 seconds off the pace and ahead of several rivals capable of overhauling their deficits.
Mayer’s compatriot Marco Schwarz (0.40) edged the Swiss duo of Loic Meillard (0.43) and Luca Aerni (0.53), with all three thriving in slalom and hoping to snatch a podium finish.