- POSTED: 10 Feb 2014 22:56
Germany's Maria Hoefl-Riesch closed in on Janica Kostelic's record of four Olympic golds with a thrilling victory in the women's super-combined on Monday.
ROSA KHUTOR, Russia: Germany's Maria Hoefl-Riesch closed in on Janica Kostelic's record of four Olympic golds with a thrilling victory in the women's super-combined on Monday.
Hoefl-Riesch became only the fourth woman to win two gold consecutive gold medals in a specific event after Italian Deborah Compagnoni (giant slalom 1994, 1998), German Katja Seizinger (downhill, 1994, 1998) and the now-retired Croat Kostelic (combined, 2002, 2006).
But the 29-year-old insisted that records were not her driving motivation after clocking a winning combined time of 2min 34.62sec after one downhill and one slalom run.
"I don't think so much about statistics and rankings. But of course if that happens, it's a great feeling," said the Garmisch-Partenkirchen native, also crowned world champion in the testing discipline last year.
"But when I win a medal like today I'm just focused on this medal and this day.
"It's not my big motivation. My motivation is to do my best every single day and make the best out of my possibilities."
Hoefl-Riesch's modesty aside, the German is sure to be remembered as one of the best all-round skiers the alpine ski world has ever seen race.
And she acknowledged that it was tricky to keep the balance across all five disciplines on the circuit: the two speed events of the downhill and super-G, the two technical events of slalom and giant slalom, and the super-combined.
"This is the big challenge to be an all-round skier: to manage switching between the disciplines, getting enough training for every event and also getting enough regeneration," Hoefl-Riesch said.
"This season it has worked pretty good so far, not all the time, but 90 percent."
Hoefl-Riesch, whose towering, athletic build often dwarfs her rivals, did admit, however, that her super-combined gold was "one of the most emotional".
"Of course Vancouver 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: you can say that but it's not always possible."
She added: "Expectations were really high for today, I was the top favourite, so it's not so easy to do the things right.
"I'd been having some problems on the downhill in training. It was better this morning but not so good, and I saw the slalom slope and thought 'Okay, this is going to be a big challenge'.
"It was very steep, but it held up okay in the warm temperatures.
"I didn't have a good feeling coming down, but when I saw the (leader's) green light I thought it might be a medal. When I realised it was enough for gold, it's amazing."
Hoefl-Riesch had a 1.04sec deficit to make up on Julia Mancuso, who had won the morning downhill and went on to claim bronze behind Austrian Nicole Hosp, who previously won slalom silver at the 2006 Turin Games.
Slovenia's world super-combined silver medallist Tina Maze finished fourth as other favourites Lara Gut of Switzerland and Austrian Elisabeth Goergl skied out in a dramatic finale.
Hosp said it had been a battle "from the start to the end in the slalom".
"It was very tough because we know Julia can ski very well at the Olympics. It was a hard fight," the Austrian said.
Mancuso's bronze was her fourth Olympic medal after a previous gold (giant slalom, 2006) and two silvers (downhill and combined, 2010), and she expressed her sheer relief at just getting across the slalom finish line after a mediocre World Cup season to date.
"Finishing the downhill in first was definitely a starting point to getting a medal," said the American, cheered on by a large family contingent in a vociferous crowd featuring, among other things, an Austrian brass band.
"I was able to pull it together after I went home for a break at Christmas time.
"It's always been my plan to do well here, and especially with my bad start it means nothing matters but for the Olympics. The Olympics are really my redemption and the moment I can make my season better."