Lara Gut, Maria Hoefl-Riesch among women's super-G favourites
Gut has won 3 of 5 races on World Cup circuit
Alpine skiing fans will find out what the best women’s competitors have planned for an encore in the super-G at the Sochi Olympics on Saturday.
There have already been plenty of storylines through two events in the women’s programme at Rosa Khutor, as six different skiers representing five countries have accounted for six podium spots.
In the opening event, Maria Hoefl-Riesch won her third career gold medal by winning the super-combined. The German excelled in the slalom to come from behind after clocking the fifth fastest time in the opening downhill run.
Meanwhile, Julia Mancuso of the United States burnished her reputation as a big event skier on that day. Despite a season of so-so World Cup results, Mancuso skied the downhill nearly a half-second faster than anyone else and then held on in the slalom portion to take bronze for her fourth career Olympic medal.
Then came Wednesday’s downhill.
In an unprecedented result, Dominique Gisin of Switzerland and Tina Maze of Slovenia clocked the exact fastest time down to the hundredth of a second. As a result, both received gold medals.
Gisin hadn’t won a World Cup race in nearly four years, while Maze lived up to expectations she set with a 2012-13 campaign that was one of the most dominant ever.
However, it is the bronze medal winner from that downhill who many peg as the favourite in Saturday’s super-G.
Lara Gut of Switzerland won three of the five super-G races held so far on the World Cup circuit. Liz Goergl of Austria accounted for one of the other wins, while the other victor, Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein, is not expected to compete due to an injury.
Given that the super-G combines the speed of the downhill with widely spaced gates, requiring skills similar to that of giant slalom, there are many contenders for medals.
Austrians Anna Fenninger and Nicole Hosp have each been on the World Cup podium this season on more than occasion in the super-G.
Fenninger will be motivated to rebound after skiing off course in the downhill earlier this week, while Hosp is going for her second medal in five days. She won silver in the super-combi, the same colour she earned in the slalom at the Vancouver Olympics.
Hoefl-Riesch guns her fourth career Olympic gold medal, a feat only achieved by retired skiers Janica Kostelic and Ktejil Aamodt.
Just like in the downhill earlier in the competition, there will be no repeat Olympic champion. But whereas Vancouver Games downhill winner Lindsey Vonn isn’t in Sochi due to injury, the super-G winner at Whistler Mountain, Andrea Fischbacher of Austria, was left off this Olympic team due to poor recent results.
Vonn won bronze in that super-G, meaning that the only holdover from the Vancouver podium will be Maze. The Slovenian will aim for her fourth career Olympic medal.
Unlike the downhill, there are no training runs leading up to the event. Which makes inspection and course reports important factors.
Marie-Michèle Gagnon will compete for Canada despite dislocating her shoulder earlier in the super-combi. The Lac Etchemin, Que., native has twice finished in the top 10 in super-G this season, but not top 5.
She likely has a better shot at a medal in the giant slalom and slalom next week.
Also competing for Canada on Saturday are Larisa Yurkiw of Owen Sound, Ont., and Marie-Pier Préfontaine of Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, Que.
The giant slalom takes place Tuesday, with the slalom set for Friday.