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Dressen leads after downhill in men’s combined at Olympics

Pyeongchang Olympics Alpine Skiing_621076

Germany’s Thomas Dressen skis during the downhill portion of the men’s combined at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Jeongseon, South Korea, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

JEONGSEON, South Korea (AP) Making good use of the No. 1 starting bib before the wind whipped up, Thomas Dressen had the fastest downhill run Tuesday in the men’s Olympic combined.

The German skier was 0.07 seconds faster than Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway in the opening race of the Alpine program at the Pyeongchang Games. Matthias Mayer of Austria, the 2014 Olympic champion in downhill, was 0.13 behind in third on a course shortened for safety reasons.

The world’s best slalom skier, Marcel Hirscher, was well placed in 12th with only 1.32 seconds to make up in the Austrian’s specialized discipline later in the afternoon. The gold medalist will be the skier with the fastest combined time.

Swirling wind was again a factor despite blue skies and sunshine in Jeongseon, where the men’s downhill race was postponed on Sunday. The race-time temperature was 12 degrees Fahrenheit (minus-11 degrees Celsius).

Gusts higher up the mountain forced organizers to lower the start, cutting about 20 seconds of skiing from the downhill portion of the combined. Racers topped 75 mph (120 kph) but were guided to a safer line cresting the jumps.

One medal contender, Kjetil Jansrud of Norway, was unhappy after being fourth-fastest, 0.27 behind Dressen.

”I wish I would’ve gone in fair conditions,” said Jansrud, who wore the No. 19 bib. ”In downhill, it’s about the aerodynamics. The wind is coming and going, sometimes tailwind and then it’s headwind.”

Hirscher wore bib No. 2, and gusts appeared to get stronger during a 15-minute delay caused by the third racer, Pavel Trikhichev, crashing out. The Russian slid into the safety fences and bloodied his mouth.

”If it had been the downhill-only race, I’m not sure they would do this,” said Jared Goldberg, the best-placed American in ninth, 0.78 behind. ”But I think for the combined it was pretty fair to run.”

Mini-twisters of snow were whipped up by the wind behind Mayer when he entered a section called Dragon Valley.

The shorter, 1 1/4-mile (2.05-kilometer) course was more like a super-G than a downhill. To better balance the race, organizers will cut 10 gates from the slalom course.

That could suit 10th-place Alexis Pinturault, a top-level slalom skier from France who is 0.28 ahead of Hirscher. Pinturault won six of the past 10 combined events on the World Cup circuit over a four-year span.

Many expect Tuesday’s race to be an Olympic farewell for combined, which has fallen out of favor with the rise in head-to-head parallel racing formats.

Combined was the original event at Alpine skiing’s Olympic debut in 1936. Traditionalists like the mix of skills, but racers are now so specialized that those good at one discipline tend not to be competitive at the other.

Hirscher almost never races World Cup downhills. Svindal, a two-time world champion in combined, has not skied a competitive slalom run in two years.

AP Sports Writers Howard Fendrich and Pat Graham contributed to this report.

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