With Lindsey Vonn missing and Maria Riesch slowed by a fever, Austria's Anna Fenninger beat all the remaining favourites to win Friday's women's super-combined event at the world championships in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
The 21-year-old Fenninger, who is yet to win a World Cup race, was fourth after the downhill and put in a near-flawless slalom run to finish in an aggregate time of two minutes 43.23 seconds. She beat Slovenia's Tina Maze by 0.09.
"I don't realize what happened, I can't believe it," said Fenninger, who won the junior world super-combined title three years ago. "It was such a difficult race, the course was pretty poor. I got snow on my goggles all the time and all I could do was just fight."
Fenninger, who had her best results in speed races, said she was proud to win the event with a strong showing in the technical part.
"I wanted to prove that I am a good slalom racer as well," the Austrian said. "I felt down and out after my poor last year and started with no expectations into this season. But I've had good results and I learned a lot this year."
Maze surprisingly crowned a rather disappointing season with a medal. Her service man left her mid-season and she was missing good results and self-belief.
Tuesday's super-G did not make her feel better. Maze finished 11th according to official results but said Friday that the time registration for her run might have been wrong.
"It was a bit chaotic, I am still not sure it's the right time," Maze said. "We watched a video analysis and there my time was better than in the race. That should not happen."
Maze put that aside and had a strong slalom run in the middle section, where many other racers struggled to keep the line.
"I am very happy to take second though it's a bit annoying that I lost by just 0.09," Maze said. "I once missed out on gold by 0.05. But second place in combined is just great for me."
Sweden's Anja Paerson trailed by 0.27 to win bronze for her 11th career world championships medal. She also took third at last year's Olympic super-combined event.
"Bronze is great but I wanted to win," Paerson said. "My slalom run was only just OK so I must settle for third place. I was skiing really fast today but I made a lot of mistakes, too. I think I lost the race because of a costly error in the downhill."
Britt Janyk of Whistler, B.C., didn't start the second run while Marie-Michele Gagnon of Lac-Etchemin, Que., didn't finish the second run.
Fenninger's victory gives Austria its second gold medal of the championships after teammate Elisabeth Goergl won the super-G on Tuesday.
Goergl posted the fastest time in the downhill but could not find enough speed in slalom to defend her lead.
"I knew I needed a super run. I still was quite relaxed but I just did not deliver," Goergl said.
Olympic champion Riesch lacked power to attack and was 1.91 back in 11th.
"I have to take it as it is," Riesch said. "I definitely wanted to race, it's the worlds at my home town. It's annoying to be ill but all I can do is hope to get well soon."
Riesch said she "went to the limit for what my body could handle" in downhill.
The Kandahar downhill course, which had been described by racers as too icy and too bumpy, was a little weakened by relatively high temperatures during a cloudy night, which made snow less icy and offered more grip than during training runs this week.
Two-time world champion Vonn, still struggling with a head injury, was 1.60 back in the downhill and decided to sit out the slalom run to prepare for Sunday's downhill race.
"Unfortunately I lost focus about three-quarters, halfway down the course," Vonn said. "It wasn't as bad as it was in the super-G by any means, but I definitely felt it still, and I'm not 100 per cent yet."
Vonn's United States teammate Julia Mancuso was among the fastest starters in the downhill but lost speed because she was not clean going into the middle section. She also lost time in the slalom, which was set by U.S. coach Chris Knight, and finished 1.33 back in seventh.
"It was a little softer than I expected and I wasn't quite prepared for that," Mancuso said.
Switzerland's Lara Gut, who won silver in the super-combined in Val d'Isere two years ago, posted the fastest intermediate times up to then but straddled a gate. She lost both skis and fell head-first but was unhurt.
In her slalom run earlier Friday, Gut was distracted by an official carrying a yellow flag entering the course during her run. It looked like he was going to flag her off, but he did not.
The previous starter, Marie Marchand-Arvier of France, fell after braking in the finish area and crashed into the safety boarding, but got up before Gut crossed the finish line.
"I saw the man with the flag but then he left, so I thought I just go on with my race," said Gut.