Little (or actually not so little) rant about some developments in alpine skiing incoming:
I always really liked the alpine combined as I think it's dramatic in a very unique way. Like people always complained the combined isn't thrilling enough because in the slalom run there are lots of riders without a chance to win between the favorites but really in Slaloms or GS' there isn't a skier with a chance to win before the top 10 or even 5 of the first run start, yet I don't hear anyone wanting to cut the 2nd run to 10 skiers. Moreover it was absolutely unique that bib 1, bib 10 bib 20 and bib 30 of the slalom all could be among the favorites. A slalom doesn't have a 2nd run where the favorites are spread over the whole starting list, a combined usually does.
So in other words, I like this event and I don't want it to die, but if every combined is like todays I'd have a hard time arguing for its existance. I'd say a combined in Are will always favor slalom skiers as the downhill slope there will never generate huge time gaps as it's generally on the easier side, but with it being extremely shortened plus the slalom slope being in a pretty bad condition this race was a joke before it even started. Now unfortunately the success of the combined is always meassured on how good the race at the last world championship or olympics was and as we haven't had a combined at a major event without either a drastically shortened downhill or a slope in an appaling condition since 2014 every single of these combineds was more or less a joke. Now if we look at 2014 and the events prior to that you'll see that the big advantage for slalom specialists everyone talks about now was basically nonexistent. Sandro Viletta despite being a surprise champion surely wasn't a slalom specialist, Ligety in 2013 was a very good slalom skier but he was already 6th after the downhill, in 2011 and 2009 Svindal won, in 2010 Miller, who back then was basically a speed specialist and in 2007 the combined was won by Daniel Albrecht who was a true allrounder. Combineds don't favor the slalom guys by nature. In a different world this championship takes place on a slope where Schwarz, Pinturault and Hadalin lose 3 seconds to Paris instead of 1 and the slalom slope is in great condition and all of a sudden you would get a race dominated by downhillers. The problem is, that wouldn't really be any better. You probably had less complaining about the event if combineds wouldn't always favor the same guys but in a race where everyone is either a slalom specialist or a downhill specialist you are always gonna favor someone. What really made this event off balanced is the lack of allrounders who can beat anyone anyway. Sure there have been specialists being competitive in the combined in the past as well but I'm certain Svindal used to be a much better slalom skier than any downhiller from this year. (I'll never forget that he secured his first overall world cup win by getting 15th in the final slalom of the 2007 season, something that seems completely impossible now) But even when there weren't many allrounders there always were a few. A guy like Natko Zrnsic Dim who was neither a good downhiller nor a good slalom skier got 4 world cup podiums in combineds plus a world championship medal. You can be a true combined specialist, but problematically nobody aims for that if there are only one or two combineds per season. Why should someone like say, Christof Innerhofer add Slalom to his training program if that discipline is relevant for him twice in the whole year. It's just way smarter to concentrate on what you are already good at and that is what gets you Hirscher with 2 or 3 downhill training days a year as an alpine combined world and olympic champion.
Besides the fact that the lack of combineds makes the event less and less competitive I also think the combined should be crucial in the battle for overally world cups. And looking back it actually was. If Benjamin Raich's combined shape hadn't declined as much as it did after 2006 he probably would have won 3 or 4 overall world cups, instead he won one. Of course overall world cup battles were very different before the Hirscher era (it was seen as almost impossible to win the overall world cup with two disciplines only, nowadays there isn't even a single skier who is competitive in 3) but I think if anything this should have led to an increase in combineds not a decrease. Little cycling analogy, if a pure climber dominates the tour de frances despite time trials, the tour de france organizers won't say "okay time trials are useless now, let's drop them altogether", they will increase time trial kilometers so the dominant climber gets beatable. Hirscher in the shape he has now probably would be unbeatable anyway but there will be an era after Hirscher. You could argue that Hirscher's dominance effectively made allrounders useless and you might be right, but what the fis is doing by killing the combined is making sure allrounders don't come back once Hirscher retires or declines. It's easy to forget a bit over 1000 points used to be enough to be in the battle for the overall world cup an in such a battle, let's say, 5 combineds can have a huge impact.
I should probably stop writing now as this post is already so long that nobody will read it anyway (right?) but this is just driving me crazy. I really want a return of the times when there were proper allrounders winning overall world cups, downhillers won gs' (little side fact I just noticed, between 2003 and 2009 there were 4 gs world champions who all won at least 3 downhills and a combined number of 40 downhills) and technicans were competitive in super-g's. But to me it feels like the fis is constantly making the wrong responds to changes in the sport.