Germany’s Maria Hoefl-Riesch fell back on all her slalom expertise to snatch victory from Slovenian Tina Maze in the women’s super-combined at the skiing world championships on Friday.
Hoefl-Riesch, also the reigning Olympic champion in the event, was in fourth position after the opening downhill run, but she quickly made up the 0.20 seconds deficit and turned on the afterburners down the Streicher course in the slalom, clocking an aggregate of 2 minutes, 39.92 seconds.
Maze, who had held the joint lead after the downhill with Austrian pin-up Anna Fenninger, took silver, 0.46 seconds back, to go with the gold she won in Tuesday’s super-G.
Austrian Nicole Hosp pulled off the fastest slalom run to make up 1.32 seconds lost on the downhill to claim an impressive bronze, 1 second off Hoefl-Riesch’s pace.
“I arrived here hoping for a medal, no matter what color,” Hoefl-Riesch said. “I’ve been lacking confidence this winter. I wasn’t favorite coming here and I didn’t really feel comfortable in today’s slalom. Knowing Tina’s form, I said to myself: ‘OK, second place is already a very good result.’ Now I am extremely happy.”
Maze said she had battled with a bad attack of nerves, insisting she was content with her silver.
“It’s a great feeling. Being here able to get a medal in every event so far is something amazing, but I still have some motivation for the upcoming races,” the 29-year-old said.
However, there was drama for defending world champion Fenninger, the darling of the Austrian media.
Exploding out of the start hut, the 23-year-old failed to make one gate high up the course and skied out to groans from the massive crowd gathered at the finish area.
“I wanted to take risks, but it can happen that you straddle a gate,” Fenninger said. “It can also happen if I don’t take any risks. Straddling is just a timing problem, it’s hard to navigate and even more so if you don’t train slalom often.”
Austrian Elisabeth Goergl, who finished just 0.05 seconds behind Fenninger and Maze in the downhill, finished sixth, while Switzerland’s Lara Gut straddled a gate in her bid to capitalize on her fourth spot in the downhill.
Goergl’s teammates Michaela Kirchgasser and Kathrin Zettel came in fourth and fifth, ahead of Italian youngster Sofia Goggia.
US hopes in the absence of Lindsey Vonn, who topped the World Cup super-combined standings over the past three seasons, but was ruled out for the season after sustaining a nasty knee injury in the super-G in Schladming, rode with Julia Mancuso.
However, the bronze medalist in the super-G could only finish eighth and was left ruing a costly error in her downhill when she almost took a tumble high up the course, doing well to correct herself and make the gate as her skis split.
“After the big mistake, there was no pressure,” Mancuso said. “For me, I just went and skied the best slalom I could. Those girls sitting in the top three are incredible slalom skiers. I’m happy, I made it to the finish clean. The goal is that anything can happen in slalom and you don’t know if the best skiers are going to make mistakes, but the course is in such good condition, not a lot of mistakes were made.”