Maria Höfl-Riesch has happy memories of Vancouver 2010, where she struck gold in the slalom and the combined to fulfil a lifetime’s ambition: “The Olympic Games are the greatest experience one can have as an athlete,” she explains. “They are what you dream about and what you work towards. When I think of the Olympic Games, naturally I think especially of Vancouver 2010 and the memories of those two gold medals - the most wonderful success of my sporting career.
Recalling her Olympic dreams as a youngster, she adds: “I remember what an inspiration it was for me as a young skier when Martina Ertl, Katja Seizinger and Hilde Gerg stood together on the podium in Nagano in 1998. That’s where I wanted to be one day. And then when I actually made it to the podium in Vancouver, and did so twice, it was such an indescribable feeling of happiness.”
Born in the Olympic resort of Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Bavaria, Riesch enjoyed a brilliant junior career, going on to become the spearhead of Germany’s women’s Alpine ski team before she had even turned 20. In February 2004 she served notice of her vast talent by winning her first FIS World Cup events: the downhill and super-G in Haus Im Ennstal and the slalom in Levi.
Throughout her career Riesch has excelled in both the speed and the technical disciplines, with the giant slalom being the only event in which she has yet to score a victory. With the exception of the injury-blighted 2005 and 2006 seasons, she has habitually been in the running for the large crystal globe and has an impressive number of titles to her name. A close friend of the USA’s Lindsey Vonn, Riesch became slalom world champion at Val d’Isere in 2009. She then made up for her disappointment at missing Turin 2006 through injury by winning slalom and combined gold at Vancouver 2010. She followed up those triumphs by clinching the overall FIS World Cup title in 2011 and then secured a second world crown in the combined in Schladming in 2013.
Discipline and passion
Discussing her goals at Sochi 2014 and her love for her sport, she says: “I really would like to win a medal at the next Olympic Games. I’ll give it everything I’ve got. But I also know that success is not a sure thing. There is an awful lot of discipline, hard work and hard training involved, and often that crucial little bit of luck. But the most important thing is that one does what one does with passion. For me, skiing is still a great passion.”
Rightly regarded among the favourites for both the slalom and the combined – an event comprising her two strongest suits – the German also harbours high hopes of success in the downhill, having won the pre-Olympic FIS World Cup event in Sochi in 18 February 2012. That experience left her enthusiastic about the Olympic venue: “The slope is really challenging, especially the top part of the downhill,” she concluded. “I’d definitely say it’s Olympic standard.”
Now married to her manager Marcus Höfl, she is aiming to bring the curtain down on her competitive career with more Olympic success in 2014, underlining her intent by winning both downhills in Lake Louise (CAN) on 6-7 December 2013. With 26 wins and 78 podiums in the World Cup going into 2014, not to mention her world and Olympic titles, Höfl-Riesch has every reason to believe she can star once again in the final major challenge of her career.
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