One word was all Maria Hoelf-Riesch used to describe her win in the Super Combined at the Olympics: ‘Wahnsinn.’ From coming from fifth after the Downhill section, that had been won by Julia Mancuso, the simple use of the word … Madness, was how the German was able to sum up her emotions. From having won the Super Combined title in 2010 in Vancouver, Hoefl-Riesch has gone on to win the World Title in Schladming in 2013 and now retaining the Olympic Title in 2014. Niki Hosp took the silver and winner of the Downhill section of the race, Julia Mancuso held on to win her fourth Olympic medal with the bronze.
This may have ‘only’ been the Super Combined, a much derided event by some but it was still an Olympic medal. It was still the chance to take something home. Lara Gut looked to have sown up the lead in the Downhill after taking a massive lead when she came down but the fact that Julia Mancuso was still at the start meant that she could not rest. Mancuso has not had the best of seasons on the World Cup this season, she has only recently started to perform to the level that she is clearly capable of after sorting out technical issues with her boots.
For the downhill, the American admitted thatÂ â€œI was just full of energy when I kicked out of the start, and the snow felt a little bit softer, so it was easier to really drive in to my ski,â€ said Mancuso. â€œYeah, having a day off, I felt really energized today. First race of the Olympics â€” I was excited and just really focused on being aerodynamic and going for it.â€
Chemmy Alcott produced a great run when you consider her recent trials and tribulations. After her run she saidÂ “I knew starting with bib number five that people would be watching me and I had to up my game. I’m really happy with the result.Â There were a couple of turns up there that really challenged my leg, so I just had to muscle through them and know where my strengths are, and charge it where I can.” And charge she did. Alcott eventually wound up in 16th spot but decided that she would not be doing the slalom section so as to rest her legs and prepare for the Downhill proper.
This could be a wise move as after a number of racers crashed out of the speed section of the race, conditions are bumpy. Despite being only two seconds out from the leaders after the downhill section, while Alcott is a very accomplished Slalom skier, she is not as fast as she once was and with the warm weather in the finish meaning that the course would be rough, this was a case of retiring to fight another day. When the air temperature is plus seven degrees in the finish, you know that the snow is on the melting side of life!
So with three racers deciding not to take the slalom test, Alcott was joined by Daniella Merighetti and Elena Fanchini, the top thirty were flipped as a top 27. Michaela Kirchgasser was the first to reallyt make her mark in the slalom but after she had stayed in the leaders enclosure for a while, she admitted that she had made one too many mistakes and could only hope that she had done enough to stay in the medals. For the Olympics it is all about three spots and after that there is nothing.
Niki Hosp is one of the big names in the field and as well as being a World Cup winner in Slalom, her speed racing has improved no end. Hosp is now more likely to appear at the business end of a Super G than in the Slalom podium positions. Hosp finished the Downhill section in eighth spot and then tore into the Slalom to grab the lead.
Lizz Goergl and then Lotte Sejersted both crashed out and this brought Maria Hoefl-Riesch into the start gate. Like her downhill, she started slowly but then when she came off the pitch she let her skis run. And run they did. by the time she crossed the line, the German was hoping to see green as she explained after the race:Â “I was just hoping for a green light after I finished because I knew the lastÂ starters weren’t very good at slalom except for Tina Maze.”
While Fenninger was the last person to win a major Super Combined title before Hoefl-Riesch, she was not able to better the time of the German and slid down to sixth.
Tina Maze has won World Cup races in all disciplines yet this season her form seems to have deserted her. This deterioration saw her change coaches midway through the season and while things have improved, she would need a huge lift to stay in the medal positions after having taken third in the downhill section. Her run started smooth but then by the time she crossed into the finish she had gone down to third. Could she hold on with two more racers to go. in Super Combined, you can never count people out.
Lara Gut has promised to deliver much and started off the season with a rush of wins. Would this be her day? The answer was soon an emphatic no as she made a mistake and then slid wide and out of the course. Would Hoefl-Riesch hold on for the win or would it be Julia Mancuso collecting the Gold.
â€œ(In the slalom start), I was just thinking, stay calm and use my heart, and I skied my heart out,â€ said Mancuso. â€œThat was really tough, it was a really, really difficult slalom run, so give it my best shot. It sure didnâ€™t feel good. I definitely had moments in my mind where I was thinking, â€˜This is not going to be good enough.â€™ But keep fighting and I knew where to let it run on that last pitch and, surprise, looked up and got a medal.â€
The joy on Mancuso’s face was sheer delight; Hoefl-Riesch dropped to the ground in disbelief as she came to terms with defending her Olympic Gold. A few weeks ago she admitted that it was not a case of defending her Golds from Vancouver as they would forever be hers, now can she go on and make it three in a row?
Picture COPYRIGHT ZOOM AGENCE