KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany captured Olympic super-combined gold four years ago with good friend and rival Lindsey Vonn in the field.
This time, there's no Vonn — she's recuperating from knee surgery — and Hoefl-Riesch is an even bigger favorite Monday in an event that combines the times of a downhill and a slalom run.
"It would be perfect for me if I make a medal there, because then the pressure is (off) a little bit," Hoefl-Riesch said.
Her top competitors will likely be Tina Maze of Slovenia, along with Austrian teammates Nicole Hosp and Anna Fenninger.
Don't count out American Julia Mancuso, who thrives at the Olympics.
Hoefl-Riesch and Vonn had quite a showdown in 2010. Vonn led after the downhill, but skied out in the slalom. Hoefl-Riesch wound up with the first of her two Vancouver golds.
Here are a five things to know ahead of the first women's Alpine race of the Sochi Games:
STEPPING UP: Mancuso hasn't been on the World Cup podium all season and hasn't raced a competitive slalom in almost a year. Still, she will be among the medal contenders in the super-combined simply because the skier from Squaw Valley, Calif., always seems to shine at major competitions.
Mancuso won a silver medal in the event in Vancouver and is the most decorated female Olympic skier in American history with three medals, including gold in the giant slalom at the 2006 Turin Games. She hasn't trained a lot of slalom but said, "I skied a lot of slalom growing up, so just kind of go back to those roots."
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