Stunning comeback gives Swiss skier world title
Aerni roars back from 30th to win combined event
In a total turnaround, Luca Aerni won the combined event at world ski championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland on Monday after being 30th fastest in downhill.
The Swiss skier was first to use the slalom course and took advantage of the clean surface to finish 0.01 seconds ahead of defending champion Marcel Hirscher of Austria.
Hirscher, the best slalom skier in the lineup who started two racers after Aerni, looked stunned after seeing his time at the finish area.
The home team also took bronze, with Mauro Caviezel finishing 0.06 behind his teammate, and placed all four of its racers in the top seven.
No Canadians were entered in the race.
In a race clearly weighted toward the early starters in the slalom run, medals went to the skiers who clocked the three fastest times in the second leg.
"This slope is a joke. They didn't prepare the slalom slope," Alexis Pinturault of France, a pre-race favourite who finished 10th, told Eurosport.
Caviezel was 1.3 seconds slower than Hirscher in the slalom, but still managed to finish third after being 14th fastest in the downhill.
Aerni's first career win gave Switzerland its third title from six races in St. Moritz, including Beat Feuz winning the marquee downhill on Sunday.
Another Swiss surprise
Swiss men have gone 2-for-3 at the worlds after winning only one of 27 World Cup events this season. That lone victory came in combined, yet it was such a fluke success at snowy Wengen by Niels Hintermann that he was not selected for Monday's race.
The 23-year-old Aerni has a career-best finish of fifth in World Cup racing, and a seventh place is his best result this season.
Switzerland has a track record of surprise winners in combined. The 2014 Olympic champion was Sandro Viletta, who is not competing in St. Moritz.
First-run leader Romed Baumann of Austria had a 2.61 advantage over Aerni after the downhill, but he dropped out of the top 10, more than a second behind.
The slalom began at 1 p.m. local time on a clear and sunny yet cold day, and the early starters carved ruts into the snow through gates set by a Swiss team coach.
Downhill specialist Kjetil Jansrud of Norway was tied for sixth in the morning, but did not race the slalom. Jansrud, who took silvers in super-G last Wednesday and combined at the 2015 worlds, has been feeling the effects of a cold.
The best placings Monday by downhill racers were Aleksander Aamodt Kilde of Norway and Dominik Paris of Italy in a tie for fourth. They trailed Aerni by 0.40 seconds.