MOUNT ALLAN, ALBERTA, FEB. 20 -- Austria's Anita Wachter and the Swiss duo of Vreni Schneider and Brigitte Oertli positioned themselves today as the skiers to beat for the gold medal in the Olympic women's combined competition.

France's Carole Merle took today's downhill portion of the combined.

The downhill results will be coupled with Sunday's slalom to determine the medalists. Neither Merle nor second-place Maria Walliser of Switzerland is strong in slalom. The event is new to the Olympics but has been contested in the World Championships since 1982.

Merle had a time of 1 minute 16.46 seconds over a downhill course that starts like the regular women's downhill but is about 200 yards and four gates shorter.

Walliser was second in 1:16.98 and Wachter third in 1:17.14, followed by Michelle McKendry of Canada (1:17.58) and Ulrike Stangassinger of West Germany in (1:17.92).

Schneider was seventh in 1:18.10 and Oertli 11th in 1:18.37. But they remained solidly in contention because only Wachter, Schneider and Oertli among the top 11 are threats in the slalom.

Edith Thys of Squaw Valley, Calif., was the top U.S. skier, placing 12th in 1:18.38.

"I was skiing very well, as if I was flying," said Merle, 24, who was 12th in Friday's downhill.

"Schneider and Wachter are also there," she conceded, "but if they are to get a medal they will have to take risks {in the slalom} and they could fall."


Linda Moore of Canada and Eigel Ramsfjell of Norway won gold medals in curling, a demonstration sport here.

Moore overcame a 4-2 deficit and some poor shot-making in the early ends to beat Sweden's Elisabeth Hogstrom, 7-5. "This moment cannot be replaced," said Moore.

Ramsfjell, the 1984 world champion, won with a 10-2 victory over Switzerland's Hansjurg Lips.