KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — The super-G was running so extreme that seven of the opening eight racers slid, tumbled, careened and glided off the course, unable to finish.
In all, 18 of 49 racers failed to make it across the finish line.
Leave it to the Austrians to solve a tricky course designed by one of their coaches. This nation, no matter how tough the track, just seems to shine in this discipline.
Anna Fenninger became the third Austrian in a row to win the women's super-G at the Olympics, finding a smooth way through the uneven course Saturday. She finished in 1 minute, 25.52 seconds, edging Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany by 0.55 seconds. Nicole Hosp of Austria was third.
With that, the Austrians are off to a soaring start at the Sochi Games, leading the Alpine standings with four medals. That already matches the total this skiing-proud nation had the entire time in Vancouver four years ago.
Pressure's now off, right?
"We have a lot of pressure — that is our sport," said Austrian coach Florian Winkler, who designed the challenging course that skiers only had a brief time to inspect.
Starting 17th and wearing a cheetah-themed print on her helmet, Fenninger flew along the course, hardly bothered by the bumps. She made sure the super-G title remained with Austria after Andrea Fischbacher took gold in 2010 and Michaela Dorfmeister did so at the 2006 Turin Games.
Racers from Austria have dominated this Olympic event since the super-G began at the 1988 Calgary Games. The country has now won eight of a possible 24 medals.
"I don't know why we can win so much medals (in super-G)," Fenninger said. "I think we just like it."
The combination of soft snow and a tight course design by Winkler had early skiers struggling to just make it down. A super-G course typically has tighter turns than a downhill. The part giving the skiers the most trouble came after the final jump, when they couldn't slow down enough to clear a series of tight gates.
The rate at which skiers were going off course led Kjetil Jansrud of Norway to post on Twitter: "I am speechless for the moment. Looks like it's difficult, but this is crazy. #DNFbonanza."
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