SOCHI, Russia, Feb. 10 (UPI) -- Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany rallied from fifth place after the downhill Monday to win her second consecutive Olympic alpine combined.
Hoefl-Riesch, consistently one of the top all-around skiers on the women's World Cup circuit, displayed that trait again Monday to become Germany's second three-time Olympic alpine champion.
Nicole Hosp of Austria captured the silver medal while the bronze medal went to American Julie Mancuso, who had led the competition after the downhill run.
The combined is a test of two very different skiing skills with the competitors first taking part in the downhill with its raw speed and then tackling the slalom course, where precision and technique come more into play.
Mancuso is by far a better downhill skier than she is a slalom skier, so the fact she was in front after the first half of the event did not automatically make her the favorite to win gold.
Hoefl-Riesch turned in the fifth best downhill run and she trailed Mancuso by 1.04 seconds.
Not only did Hoefl-Riesch win Olympic gold in the combined at Vancouver four years ago, she also won the slalom. So she was a clear threat heading into the second phase of Monday's competition.
Hoefl-Riesch turned in the third fastest slalom time, but the two fastest slalom skiers started too far back to threaten the medals. When Hoefl-Riesch crossed the line with a combined time of 2:34.62, she knew she had a chance for the gold.
Sure enough, none of the final four skiers could better her time.
Mancuso, who does not usually take part in slalom races in World Cup events, made it safely down the course, but had only the 13th fastest slalom time.
She was thrilled just to have hung on for the bronze medal, as the excitement she displayed at the finish line indicated.
Hosp finished 0.4 of a second behind Hoefl-Riesch and Mancuso was 0.53 of a second back. It was Mancuso's fourth Olympic medal, added to a giant slalom gold from Turin and silver medals won in the downhill and in this event at Vancouver.
Hoefl-Riesch now shares the record with Katja Seizinger as the only alpine skiers from Germany with three Olympic golds.