Hoefl-Riesch 4th in slalom in last Olympic race
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — This was almost the sort of final Olympic run Maria Hoefl-Riesch envisioned in the start gate.
The German standout finished fourth in the slalom on Friday night in what she vowed was her last Olympic race, a mistake in the middle of the course costing her another podium spot in her storied career.
Second after the opening run, Hoefl-Riesch hit a bump and lost speed in a race won by American teenager Mikaela Shiffrin.
“At the Olympics, you don’t get a medal for fourth place,” said Hoefl-Riesch, who was 1.19 seconds behind Shiffrin’s two-run winning time.
If Hoefl-Riesch stays true to her word and that was indeed the last time she will race on an Olympic course, she exits with quite a medal haul: Four spanning two Winter Games. That includes three golds and one silver. Even more, she finished outside the top 10 only once in nine races — when she was 13th in the downhill last week.
No chance — not even a sliver — that she might be back in South Korea in 2018?
“No chance at all,” the 29-year-old Hoefl-Riesch said, laughing.
She certainly turned in quite an entertaining show in Sochi, capturing gold in the super-combined and silver in the super-G. It could’ve possibly been more, too, had she not pulled out of the giant slalom because of a cold.
Oh, and made that costly mistake in the slalom. She instantly knew, too.
After crossing the finish line Friday, Hoefl-Riesch glanced at the scoreboard and then down at the snow, figuring that Shiffrin would surely beat her time and bump her from the podium, which was exactly what happened.
Before exiting the finish area, though, Hoefl-Riesch gave a quick “Oh, well” sort of shrug to the applauding crowd.
Then, she was greeted by her husband, who gave her a hug.
“Somebody has to be fourth. Unfortunately, it’s me,” said Hoefl-Riesch, who’s been the subject of speculation that she will retire when the season ends next month. “It’s always cool when you’re winning or making a medal, then you can be happy. When you’re losing, you have to have the greatness to say the others were better and congratulations. That was the case today.
“It’s really emotional. No matter what’s going to happen, I had a great Olympic career.”
Hoefl-Riesch was certainly impressed by the composure of the 18-year-old Shiffrin, who overcame a major bobble early in her run to become the youngest ever winner of an Olympic slalom.
“It’s really impressive. She’s only 18 and won almost everything now,” Hoefl-Riesch said. “She’s the best slalom skier and deserves the gold medal. I’m happy for her that it worked out. It was for sure not easy to handle that pressure.”
Fourth place in what Hoefl-Riesch vowed would be her final race? Well, she said, it’s “not too bad, huh? With all the slalom skiers.”
“Of course,” she said, “it would’ve been better if I had gotten another medal.”