KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — 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.
"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."
Only one woman has won four Alpine Olympic golds, Janica Kostelic of Croatia, and Hoefl-Riesch could match that as soon as Wednesday, in the downhill, when she's sure to be tested by Mancuso again.
"I don't think about records so much," said Hoefl-Riesch, who has won three of seven World Cup downhills this season. "If it happens, it's great."
She stood fifth after Monday's downhill, 1.04 seconds behind Mancuso.
Not a problem.
"I know," Hoefl-Riesch would say later, "she's not as good as me in slalom."
That's certainly true. Mancuso was the super-combined Olympic silver medalist in 2010, but she hadn't even raced a full-length slalom since January 2013.
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