Maria in super-charged masterclass

February 11, 2014 - 12:46:34 am
SOCHI, Russia: Germany’s Maria Hoefl-Riesch put on a skiing masterclass to defend her Olympic super-combined title yesterday, but 40-year-old biathlete Ole Einar Bjoerndalen saw his hopes of becoming the greatest ever winter Olympian stalled.

The 29-year-old Hoefl-Riesch, who also claimed the world title in 2013, posted a total time of 2min 34.62sec after one downhill and one slalom run on the tricky course high above the Games’ Sochi hub on the edge of the Black Sea.

She finished ahead of Austria’s Nicole Hosp at 0.40sec and US favourite Julia Mancuso, who made a key mistake halfway through the course to finish third at 0.53sec despite leading after the downhill.

Hoefl-Riesch had been fifth after the morning’s run, but put in a smooth performance in the slalom -- her speciality -- to take her third Olympic gold medal after combined and slalom wins in Vancouver in 2010.

“It was a big fight and it wasn’t easy because the snow was tough and bumpy. The hill was steep at the start, which I found especially difficult,” said Hoefl-Riesch. 

“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.”

For Mancuso, it was a fourth Olympic medal -- the joint-second most for an American woman at the Winter Games.

“To win another medal is just a dream come true,” said Mancuso. ”I dedicated this to my grandpa. He had always encouraged me, but he passed away a year ago.”