Fenninger claims gold in drama-filled super-G
Austria's Anna Fenninger competes during the women's Alpine Skiing Super-G at the Sochi Winter Olympics on February 15, 2014 - by Olivier Morin
After only three of the starting 10 racers had made it down the 2.2km-long Rosa Khutor course, Fenninger, starting with bib number 18, showed her giant slalom skills to clock 1min 25.52sec for victory.
Germany's Maria Hoefl-Riesch won silver at 0.55sec to go with the gold she won in Monday's super-combined, while combined silver medallist Nicole Hosp of Austria took bronze, a further 0.11sec adrift.
Hoefl-Riesch was left kicking herself after taking the lead on the third split and looking set for another gold.
But she went wide as she flew over the final bump and could not re-find her rhythm in time through the swinging series of gates to the finish area.
"Our coaches told us we had to change a little on the final lip but I hit it too quick and couldn't modify my trajectory," lamented the 29-year-old German.
In brilliant sunshine and balmy temperatures, a capacity 7,500-strong crowd in Rosa Khutor were left gasping and coaches with heads in hands as their charges failed to master the course set by Austrian coach Florian Winkler.
"I have to give praise to the coach who set the course because you have to be so tactical. I can't describe my emotions, I am really stunned. I didn't think it was going so well while I was going down," said Fenninger, 24.
"I was very good up top, not so good at the bottom but in the middle section there was still the possibility to go looking to go faster, as Maria showed."
Hoefl-Riesch added: "I didn't think I was so quick and that I was in the lead through the middle.
"After that mistake at the bottom, I still find it hard to believe that I'm second. The surprise was even greater than in the combined."
- Tough course claims multiple victims -
After American Leanne Smith registered the first time, starting second, the next six racers span out of control in a rarely seen alpine skiing spectacle.
Swiss Dominique Gisin, who shared gold with Slovenia's Tina Maze in Monday's downhill, was one of the skiers to crash out, failing to safely negotiate a sharp left of the flying final lip with the line in sight.
Maze finished fifth (+0.76sec), just behind downhill bronze medallist Lara Gut of Switzerland in fourth. Injured in-form Liechtensteiner Tina Weirather, who trains alongside Gut with the Swiss team, was a late withdrawal.
The super-G, or "super giant slalom", combines elements of the downhill and the giant slalom, and is decided over one race.
Crucially, unlike the downhill, skiers do not have the chance of a pre-race training run for super-G, but only a one-hour visual inspection on the morning of the race.
"I think we all underestimated the track after inspection and thought there would be fewer problems. It's more difficult with the soft snow," said Swiss racer Fabienne Suter, who finished seventh at 1.37sec.
"I saw the first and second starters on the TV. I had a strange feeling before going down the track."
Italian Daniela Merighetti failed to finish the course and agreed with Suter, saying: "It's hard to stay on the track. It's so steep and very curvy -- it's not an easy course.
"Maybe the Austrians have an advantage because the setter is their coach. I am not saying that it is going to be easy for them, but easier.
"I am disappointed because these are the Olympics and all it matters is to finish in the top three."