CORTINA D'AMPEZZO, Italy (Reuters) - American Mikaela Shiffrin won a record-breaking ninth medal in world championships alpine skiing after an immaculate slalom run propelled her to gold in the women's combined event on Monday.
Shiffrin, who surpassed the record she had shared with compatriot Lindsey Vonn, won her sixth overall gold medal and the first in the 2021 championships after finishing 0.86 seconds ahead of Slovakian rival Petra Vlhova.
Michelle Gisin clocked third spot 0.89 seconds off the pace to underline Switzerland's prowess in Cortina D'Ampezzo, with her compatriots Corinne Suter and Lara Gut-Behrami already hauling in four medals between them including two golds.
Shiffrin gave herself a fighting chance of taking the combined honours after finishing the morning's super-G leg of the event in third place behind Italians Federica Brignone and Elena Curtoni.
But she still had it all to do on a hard and icy slalom course which saw Brignone suffer a heartbreaking exit almost straight out of the block, when she lost her balance at the second gate and then missed the third.
Next Curtoni completed the course with a smooth run before Shiffrin, who conceded last year's World Cup title to Brignone, stormed down the piste to leave the Italian and then the rest of her rivals trailing in her wake.
The 25-year old from Vail, Colorado, who claimed the bronze medal in Thursday's super-G, was elated after winning her first ever combined gold medal in the world championships.
"I am happy we decided to put the combined event in the plans for this world champs," she told Eurosport in a flash interview in the finish area.
"It was a really nice day, beautiful weather and really great tracks on both events. It's sometimes intimidating to go on that surface, it's like going into battle.
"You have to get yourself psyched up and give your very best skiing to be fast and even get to the finish."
Curtoni's fourth-place left a bitter taste for the Italians who are yet to enjoy a podium finish in either the men's or women's competition.
Later on Monday, the men will complete their combined event, with Canadian James Crawford the shock leader ahead of Frenchman Alexis Pinturault and Austrian Vincent Kriechmayr after the super-G leg.
Krichmayr is bidding for his third gold medal of the championships after clinching the super-G and downhill.
(Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic; Editing by Pritha Sarkar and Ken Ferris)