Hoefl-Riesch pulls ahead for super close super-combi win

29 January 2012 11:39

ST. MORITZ, Switzerland – After finishing second in Saturday’s downhill race, Maria Hoefl-Riesch said she hoped “some day” she would be able to beat Lindsey Vonn again. That day came faster than expected when the German 2011 World Cup overall champion surged ahead by the skin of her teeth to usurp Vonn in the super-combined on Sunday to notch her first victory of the season.

Vonn had the fastest super G run, although she crossed the finish line shaking her head, knowing it would not allow her much of a cushion for the slalom, which proved especially true when Hoefl-Riesch finished just 0.23 seconds behind her in the speed portion of the race.

Nicole Hosp, who claimed her first Cup podium since December 2010 in Friday’s super-combined, laid down a smoking slalom in Sunday’s super-combi after finishing 28th in the super G. The Austrian veteran, putting down by far the fastest slalom run of the field, led the entire second run until it was Hoefl-Riesch and Vonn’s turns.

Hoefl-Riesch then pulled ahead and all eyes were on Vonn as she held the green box for the first two splits of her slalom run but then dropped time on the end flats, crossing the finish line 0.03 behind Hoefl Riesch, who won the race with a combined time of 2 minutes, 8.41 seconds. Hosp held on for third, rounding out the podium, 0.51 seconds back.

“It’s my first win of the season I’m really, really happy with that. The trend the last weeks was already really up. Finally, although it was really close, my first win,” Hoefl-Riesch said. “In the speed events it’s so hard to beat Lindsey. I was hoping to take the chance at the right time. I was doing a good super G, not too much time [behind] Lindsey … it was the base for the win. My slalom is not working perfect at the moment; I’m not totally self-confident. My slalom run today was not a really good one, but it was secure.”

Hoefl-Riesch has notched five other podiums this season – two in slalom and downhill and one in SG – and has consistently been in the top 10 save a handful of costly errors that have resulted in DNFs or results in the 20s.

“Yeah I think the last weeks were better and better. In all the speed races I was on the podium, today my first win, so I hope it could go on like this,” Hoefl-Riesch said.

Hosp flew down the slalom course in 46.98 seconds, well over a second faster than Hoefl-Riesch, although the German’s slalom was third fastest of the day – 48.28 – after Canadian tech specialist Marie-Michel Gagnon, who barely made the second run cut, finishing 30th in the super G but then posted the best super-combi result of her Cup career in seventh, with a 47.64-second slalom.

Vonn was actually more pleased with her slalom than her super G performance, and said she can think of several areas on the course that could account for 0.03 seconds and that it would have sat better with her had Hoefl-Riesch beaten her by a larger margin.

“I really tried hard in the slalom. I just made a couple of funny mistakes today in the super G. I kept catching my inside edge; maybe my skis were too sharp,” Vonn said. “But my slalom run was good. It’s just a little disappointing to be second by three hundredths. I’d rather Maria have beat me by a second. But I’m really happy for Maria, she got her first season win today. I know exactly where I lost three hundredths. You can pick out a couple places in the slalom or a lot of places in the super G. But you know, you look back and learn from your mistakes. I fought hard, it just wasn’t meant to be … Hopefully next weekend I can get my 50th win.  

Vonn, who was the VIP of the 2012 World Cup events in St. Moritz with two wins – her 48th and 49th Cup victories – and today’s second place, leads the overall standings with 1250 points. Tina Maze is next with 863 and Hoefl-Riesch jumps to third now with 696.

Hosp was very pleased with her weekend’s performances, saying it’s exactly what she needs for the mental strength it takes to work her way back up to the top of her sport, but also credited her early start number in the slalom for allowing her to put down such speed.

Unlike Friday’s super-combi slalom, Sunday’s course was not injected, meaning it became more obviously slower with ruts from ensuing racers and also made sticky by the warm afternoon sun. FIS Race Director Atle Skaardal said race officials decided against another injection because they thought several racers – the speed specialists in particular – struggled with the icy conditions in Friday’s race – in which eight athletes didn’t finish. 

“My opinion was I had a good number in slalom,” Hosp said. “I knew the snow was softer than on Friday. I just had to push. I had the little mistake in the steep part, I thought that would be very tight, because a lot of good slalom skiers have been in front, Tina maze, Kathrin Zettel, Anna Fenninger …  I was so happy when they all finished behind me. I had not a good shape in the morning; I was tired in my legs. Now in slalom it was good. It was very important for me to come back to the podium, today the second time on the podium … it’s great.”

Besides Gagnon, seventh and 1.36 seconds behind the leader, several racers had fantastic races on Sunday. Elisabeth Goergl – who doesn’t compete in slalom races – held onto her fourth place position after the SG through the tight gates and finished just 0.81 seconds off of Hoefl-Riesch’s winning time. Maze, who was second in Friday’s SC, was fifth Sunday, 0.99 seconds back and 20-year-old Norwegian racer Lotte Smiseth Sejersted notched the second best result of her World Cup career in sixth, 1.02 seconds back. Italian Johanna Schnarf landed the second top 10 of the season in eighth, 1.48 seconds back, Zettel ended up ninth, 1.59 seconds back and Anja Paerson made the fourth top 10 of her season in 10th, 1.89 seconds back.

Go here for video interviews with the podium finishers.

Go here for race action highlights.

By Shauna Farnell

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