Marie-Michèle Gagnon made history in Canadian alpine skiing on Sunday by winning the gold medal in the Super Combined event in Altenmarkt-Zauchensee, Austria.
The 24-year old skier became the first Canadian in 30 years to capture gold in a World Cup combined event and first ever to record a medal in a super-combined, earning her Athlete of the Week honours.
Gagnon placed 16th in the Super giant slalom before posting a time of 51.04 seconds, the second fastest slalom time. She had a combined total time of 2 minutes, 5.55 seconds, 0.32 ahead of Austrian Michaela Kirchgasser and beat Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany by 0.39. She was 1.37 seconds off the lead going into her second run.
“It’s amazing and to be honest I was quite surprised,” she said through a release at fis-ski.com. “I knew I had to do a really good slalom since I was more than a second behind (1.37) after the super-G run. So I entered the slalom without too much of expectation. I skied freely and that helped me give my best.”
The combination of Super-G and slalom proved advantageous for Gagnon. Going into Sunday’s race she had placed in the top 10 of two Super-G events and in the top six in all four slalom races. On Tuesday night, she notched her 11th top 10 finish of the season in a slalom event in Flachau, Austria.
Sunday marked the second time in Gagnon’s career that she has reached the podium. In March 2012, she won a slalom bronze in Are, Sweden.
She is expected to be officially named to the Canadian Olympic Team with other women’s alpine skiers on Thursday, January 16 in Québec City. Three men were nominated in Toronto recently and the window for Sochi qualification remains open through January 26.
THE SUPER COMBINED
In the past, the Combined event involved a downhill run and two slalom runs. In an attempt to even the playing field for skiers pitted against the pros of slalom, the Super Combined has included since 2005 a downhill run and a shortened Super-G run, followed by a slalom run. There are few Super Combined events in a given season, as it is rare to hold two events in the same day.