Julia Mancuso’s blazing downhill run got the early-rising Twitter crowd excited. German favorite Maria Hoefl-Riesch nailed her slalom and set a pace Mancuso couldn’t match, but Mancuso was thrilled to get down a tough slalom run with the bronze. That’s Mancuso’s fourth Olympic medal (gold in 2006 giant slalom, silvers in 2010 downhill and combined) to go with five World Championship podiums. And she has to be a contender in the upcoming speed events.
Sport: Alpine skiing
Event: Women’s combined (downhill and slalom)
Medalists: Maria Hoefl-Riesch (Germany), Nicole Hosp (Austria), Julia Mancuso (USA)
SportsMyriad projections: Tina Maze (Slovenia), Nicole Hosp (Austria), Michaela Kirchgasser (Austria)
How U.S. fared: The bad news — two Americans didn’t finish the downhill. Laurenne Ross bumped her feet together, and a ski just popped off. Even if you don’t know skiing, you know that’s not good. Fortunately, she skidded on her side rather than tumbling hard, and she seemed unhurt.
Stacey Cook started going far too wide early on and finally missed a gate, taking her out of the competition.
Leanne Smith had a less eventful downhill, ranking 20th, 2.38 seconds behind Mancuso. But she was one of several skiers who couldn’t complete a challenging slalom course.
Then there was defending silver medalist Julia Mancuso, who always saves her best skiing for the big events. She scorched the downhill, taking a lead of 0.47 seconds. British skier Chemmy Alcott hugged her at the finish, then yelled to the camera, “See? (unintelligible) at the Olympics!” Indeed she is.
What happened: The contenders fell in line behind Mancuso in the downhill — Lara Gut (Switzerland, 0.47 seconds back), Tina Maze (Slovenia, 0.86), Anna Fenninger (Austria, 0.99) and Maria Hoefl-Riesch (Germany, 1.04). Hoefl-Riesch was off the pace at the start but made up ground through the middle with her technical prowess.
Also lurking were the Austrians — Elisabeth Goergl (1.21) and Nicole Hosp (1.27), though Michaela Kirchgasser left herself a 3.04-second deficit.
Off to the slalom stage, which bared its teeth early as Slovakians Kristina Saalova and Jana Gantnerova skidded off the course. Canada’s Marie-Michele Gagnon, who won the only World Cup combined so far this season, did a spread-eagle face-plant and came up holding her wrist.
Hosp was the first of the contenders to tackle the slalom, and she didn’t disappoint, taking a lead of 1.10 seconds over the rest of the field. Goergl was up next and started losing time early, then straddled a gate to go out of the contest.
Hoefl-Riesch, the defending champion, drove through the course like it was child’s play. She took a 0.40-second lead over Hosp. Fenninger wasn’t going to reclaim that spot for Austria, shedding time throughout the run and falling well back out of medal contention.
Then it was Tina Maze, who set all sorts of records with her World Cup domination in 2012-13. She had a bobble or two on the way down and came across in bronze medal position, behind Hoefl-Riesch and Hosp, with two skiers to go.
Lara Gut came out aggressively. Perhaps too much so. She skidded into trouble, tried to recover but couldn’t make the turn. That left Mancuso aiming at a podium of Hoefl-Riesch, Hosp and Maze. She got one.
Quote: to come