'All or bust' as Pinturault targets world combined defence

Cortina d'Ampezzo (Italy) (AFP) –


Alexis Pinturault admits that when it comes to the world ski championships, it is more often than not "all or bust".

The French racer from the swanky Alpine resort of Courchevel is also in no doubt about his split priorities.

The 29-year-old is the current leader in the overall World Cup standings, bidding to become the first French winner of the big crystal globe since Luc Alphand in 1997.

"It should be seen more as a breath of fresh air," Pinturault said of the February 8-21 world champs in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy.

"I have high goals, but it's also a fortnight where you have to ski at your max, so it's either 'all or bust'."

Pinturault added: "Usually at the World Cup, it is more a question that it works.

"Here, I can tell myself that I try everything: if it pays off, so much the better... but if it doesn't pay off, too bad."

Pinturault is the reigning world alpine combined champion, having triumphed in Are, Sweden, two years ago ahead of unheralded Slovene Stefan Hadalin and Austrian Marco Schwarz.

He is also a twice-bronze medallist in the giant slalom (2015, 2019), and in Cortina will race the super-G, giant slalom and slalom as well as the combined.

"I'm going to try to start with a medal, and afterwards, we'll see," 'Pintu' said.

"I'm an outsider in the super-G. If you take my recent results, it's far from being my favourite event of the four I'm doing here," he said in reference to not having made a super-G podium since December 2014.

First up, however, is Wednesday's combined, an event which Pinturault dominates. In 27 combined events in his 10-year career, he has nailed down 15 podiums, including 10 victories.

Reigning Olympic champion, however, is Marcel Hirscher, the now-retired Austrian who trumped Pinturault in Pyeongchang in 2018.

- 'A great duel' -

In the absence of Hirscher, the Frenchman will face stiff competition from Switzerland's Loic Meillard, a slalom specialist who has recently impressed by bagging two top-10 super-G finishes in World Cup action in Kitzbuehel and again in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

"Alexis will be the man to beat," said the 24-year-old Swiss racer who has never won a combined.

"I know it's going well for me in both the super-G and slalom... I hope it'll be a great duel and we can put on an entertaining show.

"He's the favourite and I'll try to pile the pressure on him."

The combined is scheduled to kick off Wednesday with a super-G at 0930 GMT, followed by a 1230 GMT slalom.

Organisers will be hoping for some clement weather after first heavy snow and then fog forced the postponement of both the women's combined and super-G on Monday and Tuesday, as well as the rescheduling of the men's super-G.