Super-charged Höfl-Riesch finds winning combination to claim third Alpine skiing gold
Germany's Maria Höfl-Riesch completed a superb defence of her Olympic super combined title on the slopes of Rosa Khutor on Monday.
The 29-year-old, who also won the world title last year, overcame a deficit of more than a second after the downhill to produce a dazzling display in the slalom and post a total time of 2 minute 34.62 seconds.
She described the win as “one of the most emotional” wins of her title-packed career to date.
“Of course Vancouver 2010 very emotional and big for me, with two gold medals, especially winning the slalom there when conditions were really tough,” she said.
“But also today because everyone was expecting it. The pressure was really high. I tried to to keep cool and easy: but it's not always possible… I was the top favourite, so it's not so easy to do the things right.”
Höfl-Riesch finished ahead of Austria's Nicole Hosp at 0.40 sec, who claimed her second Olympic silver, and US favourite Julia Mancuso at 0.53, who led after the downhill. The American’s bronze takes her overall Olympic medal tally to four.
“It was a big fight and it wasn't easy because the snow was tough and bumpy,” said Höfl-Riesch, who now takes her Olympic gold medal tally to three, following combined and slalom wins at Vancouver 2010.
“The hill was steep at the start, which I found especially difficult. It didn't feel great, but I skied fast enough. I was able to keep my skis going and didn't break too much in the turns.”
The German now joins Croatia’s Janica Kostelic as the only female skier in Olympic history to win back-to-back combined titles.
She also becomes only the second German Alpine skier to win three Olympic titles, following in the footsteps of Katja Seizinger, with every chance that she will surpass this benchmark before Sochi 2014 draws to a close.
However, the Garmisch-Partenkirchen native claimed that a place in the record books was not a primary source of motivation.
“I don't think so much about statistics and rankings. But of course if that happens, it's a great feeling.
“It's not my big motivation. My motivation is to do my best every single day and make the best out of my possibilities.”
“But when I win a medal like today I'm just focused on this medal and this day.
One of the all-time greats
Modesty aside, the German is already sure to be remembered as one of the best all-round skiers the Alpine ski world has ever seen.