KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — In Alpine skiing, there are speed specialists and there are technical specialists, and then there’s Maria Hoefl-Riesch.
As versatile as they come, the German is establishing herself as one of the very best ever — and she owns three Olympic golds to prove it.
Solid in Monday morning’s downhill run, then much more special in the afternoon’s slalom, Hoefl-Riesch won the super-combined — the event intended to measure all-around skill — for the second Winter Games in a row.
Her total time of 2 minutes, 34.62 seconds was 0.40 seconds faster than silver medalist Nicole Hosp of Austria. Hoefl-Riesch was 0.53 better than first-run leader Julia Mancuso, whose bronze was her fourth career Olympic medal in Alpine skiing, twice as many as any other U.S. woman has won.
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“Of course, the expectations were really high for today. I was one of the top favorites — or, actually, the top favorite,” Hoefl-Riesch said. “The pressure was really high. I tried to keep cool and easy. … Yeah, you can say that, but it’s not always possible.”
For her, it seems, anything is possible, particularly when it matters most.
This was the sixth Olympic race for the 29-year-old Hoefl-Riesch — there’s been talk that she could retire after the season — and she’s finished inside the top 10 in each one. She missed the 2006 Turin Games after tearing ligaments in both knees the year before, then started making up for that lost opportunity with victories in Vancouver four years ago in the super-combined and slalom. She also is a five-time world championship medalist, won the 2011 overall World Cup title and leads the current standings.
“She won everything,” said Hans Pum, Austria’s Alpine director. “She’s now one of the greatest.”
Deneen places 6th in men’s moguls
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — Canada’s Alex Bilodeau defended his gold medal in Olympic men’s moguls on Monday night, fending off rival Mikael Kingsbury to become the first freestyle skier to win consecutive Olympic titles.
Bilodeau put together a perfect run in the finals to make history, posting a score of 26.31 on the slushy Rosa Khutor Extreme Park course in the medal round.
Kingsbury endured a slight form break in the middle of his run and ended up with silver. Alexandr Smyshlyaev of Russia took bronze.
Patrick Deneen of Cle Elum advanced to the six-man super final but finished sixth.
Deneen had a sloppy run in the first qualifying round and failed to earn an automatic spot in the three-stage finals. Instead he had to take a second qualifying run.
“I came here for a medal. It wasn’t my night,” Deneen said. “I was skiing really well, but in my finals run I just didn’t ski up to my potential. It just wasn’t a medal-quality run tonight.”
Norwegians make fashion statement
SOCHI, Russia — The Norwegian men, curling’s fashion kings of cool, made their Sochi debut with another snazzy pattern on their pants — a mixture of red, white, blue and gray squares and rectangles. Norway dazzled the U.S. 7-4, but the surprise of opening day was Switzerland’s upset of defending champion Canada.
“We have so many things going on in the closet right now,” Norway curler Haavard Vad Petersson said. “We just have to try to get through them all.”
On the women’s side, Sweden defeated Britain 6-4 in a matchup of two favorites for the women’s curling gold.
After becoming the first team in Canada’s storied curling history to go through Olympic trials unbeaten, Brad Jacobs’ rink was justifiably regarded as the overwhelming gold-medal favorite for the Sochi Games. It’s not turning out that way.
On a sobering opening day of action at the Ice Cube Curling Center, the Canadians only scraped past unheralded Germany 11-8 and followed that with the surprise 5-4 loss to Switzerland in the evening session.
“We didn’t curl well at all and got what we deserved,” Canada player Ryan Harnden said. “We’re not sharp, not in a rhythm, not making our shots.”
In other events
• Martin Fourcade won the 12.5-kilometer biathlon pursuit. Fourcade’s win earned France its first medal. Ondrej Moravec of Czech Republic took the silver, and Jean Guillaume Beatrix of France earned bronze. Ole Einar Bjoerndalen of Norway finished fourth, missing out on a record 13th Winter Olympic medal.
• The United States romped to a 9-0 victory over Switzerland to all but clinch a spot in the Olympic women’s hockey semifinals. Canada topped Finland 3-0 to ensure its spot in the semifinals.
• Mike Mulder of the Netherlands won the men’s 500 meters in speedskating, earning him the title of fastest man on skates. Teammate Jan Smeekens was 0.01 seconds behind for silver, and twin Ronald Mulder took bronze in a Dutch sweep.