A year after her first golden World Championships’ triumph at Val d’Isère where she won the slalom, Maria Riesch captured another gold medal this week at Whistler Creek at the end of a thrilling super combined event.
2nd after the downhill leg only a few tenths behind her friend Lindsey Vonn, the 25-year-old skier from Garmisch-Partenkirchen charged the slalom run with great determination to set a new best time which was out of reach for her closest rivals.
USA’s Julia Mancuso was 2nd ahead of an incredible Anja Pärson. Lindsey Vonn hooked a gate and crashed during the slalom leg while defending her chances for another gold medal.
Maria is the first German since Katja Seizinger in 1998 to clinch gold in that event a day after her rather disappointing result in the downhill that she ended in 8th place.
“I have a hard time believing I made it, I was aiming for any medal today but it’s absolutely wonderful to get the golden one,” she said after the race. “Today I felt ready for a great race after yesterday’s tough downhill. I was not able to achieve my potential in that event after all those accidents which took place before my start. I had to wait a long time at the start and I just was not as focused as needed. I struggled most of my way down the slope.”
“Fortunately we started from lower today, yet I still made a great mistake at the top after the first big jump. I went off line and lost much time so I was pleased after my run not to have lost more time. In fact I only lost a few tenths. I knew I could do it and I felt confident before the slalom run because I liked the slope.”
“I immediately found a good rhythm in that slalom and I kept on accelerating until the arrival. It was amazing to set a new best time and I was so happy to being assured finally making my first Olympic medal.”
Great revenge for Maria
“I could not compete at the 2006 Games because I injured myself at a knee at the season start so I was hoping a lot from these events here. Everybody expected me to excel here so it was not easy for me to handle all that pressure. Luckily I managed to regroup after yesterday’s disappointing downhill and soon find back all my motivation for the combined.”
“To be Olympic champion is just the best you can get, it means so much to me and my team. But everything needs to be perfectly in position to make it happen. It was the case today for me. Now I can relax going into the next competitions, I got what I was dreaming of. I’ll for sure try again my best in the remaining competition but this result takes much pressure off my shoulders.”
6th Olympic medal for Anja Pärson
Anja Pärson achieved a quite amazing performance getting bronze in that event 24 hours after suffering a brutal crash in the downhill while fighting for a spot on the podium.
The Swedish veteran got her sixth Olympic medal after a gutsy downhill leg in the morning and a very aggressive slalom run in the afternoon. She is now tied with Croatia’s skiing legend Janica Kostelic for the highest number of Olympic medals won by a female skier in Alpine Ski Racing.
She was 3rd too in combined four years ago at Sestriere where she also gained gold in slalom and another bronze in downhill. Now she only needs another medal in Super-G to complete her collection of Olympic medals in Alpine Ski Racing.
The two-time Overall World Cup champion was as proud as exhausted after her races. “It has been an incredible battle against myself today, I had so much pain after my accident that I only decided to compete a few minutes prior the beginning of the event,” she explained afterwards.
“Parts of my body are totally blue because of the bruises, I had a hard time putting on my shoes this morning because of my injured calf,” Pärson added. "I would not participate in a beauty contest in those conditions," she also commented with humour.
“But it was very important for me to get going, win that battle against myself and get down that slope again to get over my fear,” she also said. “I skied as strong as possible in the upper part despite my pain but I backed off a little at the bottom. I was really happy to have made it safe through that last jump this time, it was a great relief.”
“In the slalom I used my anger to fight my way through the poles. I just gave what I had in me. It was incredibly intense but I feel great now. I’m really proud of myself having accomplished this strong comeback. For sure it has been one of my toughest battles but it was worth it."
"I don’t know how I’ll feel in the coming days, I hope to get better but this is already very important to me,” also explained the skier from Taernaby who has now amassed a total of 16 medals since her first victory in slalom at St. Anton in 2001.