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Olympics roundup: Austrian Anna Fenninger wins treacherous women’s super-G

Associated Press

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia: The Super-G was running so extreme that seven of the opening eight racers slid, tumbled, careened and glided off the course, unable to finish.

In all, 18 out of 49 racers failed to make it across the finish line.

Leave it to the Austrians to solve a tricky course designed by one of their coaches. This nation, no matter how tough the track, just seems to shine in this discipline.

Anna Fenninger became the third Austrian in a row to win the women’s super-G at the Olympics, finding a smooth way through the uneven course Saturday. She finished in 1 minute, 25.52 seconds, edging Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany by 0.55 seconds. Nicole Hosp of Austria was third.

With that, the Austrians are off to a soaring start at the Sochi Games, leading the Alpine standings with four medals. That already matches the total this skiing-proud nation had the entire time in Vancouver four years ago.

Pressure’s now off, right?

“We have a lot of pressure — that is our sport,” said Austrian coach Florian Winkler, who designed the challenging course that skiers only had a brief time to inspect.

Starting 17th and wearing a cheetah-themed print on her helmet, Fenninger flew along the course, hardly bothered by the bumps. She made sure the super-G title remained with Austria after Andrea Fischbacher took gold in 2010 and Michaela Dorfmeister did so at the 2006 Turin Games.

Racers from Austria have dominated this Olympic event since the super-G began at the 1988 Calgary Games. The country has now won eight of a possible 24 medals.

“I don’t know why we can win so much medals [in super-G],” Fenninger said. “I think we just like it.”

The combination of soft snow and a tight course design by Winkler had early skiers struggling to just make it down. A super-G course typically has tighter turns than a downhill. The part giving the skiers the most trouble came after the final jump, when they couldn’t slow down enough to clear a series of tight gates.

The rate at which skiers were going off course led Kjetil Jansrud of Norway to post on Twitter: “I am speechless for the moment. Looks like it’s difficult, but this is crazy. #DNFbonanza.”

Of the first eight to begin, only American racer Leanne Smith made it down cleanly. She had the momentary lead, which actually looked like it might just hold up since no one could seem to finish.

Hoefl-Riesch and Hosp certainly had no trouble navigating the hill and added to their medal collections in Sochi. They went 1-2 in the super-combined earlier this week.

For Hoefl-Riesch, there was an extra obstacle to deal with in her run Saturday — a course worker who was near a gate.

“I was not really influenced by that,” said Hoefl-Riesch, who boosted her career Olympic medal count to four. “It was not a problem for me. Of course, this shouldn’t happen, because it’s dangerous.”

Pre-race favorites Lara Gut of Switzerland and Tina Maze of Slovenia were fourth and fifth.

Julia Mancuso of the United States said she became hesitant after watching so many others before her struggle on the course. She wound up eighth.

“I think that I could have been more on the limit. But in a way, you still want to cross the finish line,” Mancuso said.

The Americans are feeling the heat after capturing just one medal through five events (Mancuso’s bronze in the super-combined). The squad had a team-record eight medals in Vancouver.

Then again, they are without Lindsey Vonn, who’s out of the Olympics after having surgery on her knee.

“She was the leader of the team,” said Peter Schroecksnadel, the president of the Austrian ski federation. “I think that hurts the Americans very much.”

Speedskating

Maybe it wasn’t the suits after all.

After shedding their new, high-tech skinsuits for their old-fashioned gear, American speedskaters still were without a medal at the Sochi Olympics.

Zbigniew Brodka of Poland and Koen Verweij of the Netherlands were initially shown on the scoreboard to be tied for the top spot in the men’s 1,500-meter, but when the time was broken down to the thousandths, the victory went to Brodka in 1 minute, 45.006 seconds. Verweij was second in 1:45.009. The bronze went to Canada’s Denny Morrison, his second medal of the Sochi Games.

Cross country

Charlotte Kalla erased a 25-second deficit on the final leg to give Sweden the gold in the 4x5-kilometer relay. Finland finished second to win silver, and Germany took bronze. Norway was well behind in fifth. “It is tough to see because we are so good in relay, we have always been so good, many seconds before the other girls,” said Heidi Weng, who skied the first leg for Norway. “And today others were better than us.”

Short track speedskating

Zhou Yang of China won her second consecutive gold medal in the women’s 1,500 meters — a race that included a three-skater crash involving 500-meter gold medalist Li Jianrou of China. Viktor Ahn of Russia won gold in the men’s 1,000, with teammate Vladimir Grigorev taking the silver. It was Ahn’s second medal of the Sochi Olympics.

Curling

Pre-tournament favorite Canada virtually sealed its place in the semifinals of women’s curling by beating Japan 8-6. China, Britain and two-time defending champion Sweden are ahead for the other semifinal spots. In the men’s tournament, China and Sweden earned wins to stay at the top of the standings. Canada and Britain are a game behind in the race for the four playoff spots.

Hockey

Slovenia, playing in its first Olympic hockey tournament, surprised Slovakia 3-1. In the women’s tournament, Sweden upset Finland 4-2 and Switzerland beat Russia 2-0.



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