Hoefl-Riesch ready to step into Vonn's shoes

Fri Jan 24, 2014 1:04pm EST
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By Patrick Lang

CORTINA D'AMPEZZO, Italy (Reuters) - With her third downhill victory of the season at Cortina d'Ampezzo on Friday, Maria Hoefl-Riesch has emerged as favorite to take over from injured arch-rival and friend Lindsey Vonn as Olympic champion.

"At the moment I don't think too much about Sochi. The Olympics is the biggest goal, but also the World Cup and it goes together," the German all-rounder said.

"You need good results in the World Cup to have the confidence for the Olympics," added Hoefl-Riesch, who had already won a Super at the Italian resort in 2008 and a downhill in 2011.

The 2011 overall World Cup champion upstaged Liechtenstein Tina Weirather by 0.31 seconds while Austrian Nicole Schmidhofer was third 0.75 adrift.

With the Sochi Winter Games two weeks away, the 29-year-old from Garmisch-Partenkirchen said she felt no pressure, having already achieved so much in her career.

"I already said it could my last season and I've already achieved all my goals. All I have no-one can take away. The easier and the cooler I can be, the better it works," she said.

Slalom and super-combined gold-medalist in Vancouver four years ago, she knows exactly what to expect at Olympic level.

"You need to be confident. Everything must fit you on that day, the course setting, the snow condition, your form on that day. You also need a little bit of luck.   Continued...

Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany celebrates on the podium after winning the women's FIS World Cup Downhill race in Cortina D'Ampezzo January 24, 2014. REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo