Alpine Skiing Olympics 2014: Top Storylines to Watch in Women's Super Combined

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Alpine Skiing Olympics 2014: Top Storylines to Watch in Women's Super Combined
Charles Krupa/Associated Press

Alpine skiing is one of the most fact-paced, adrenaline-fueled events in the 2014 Olympics. The women will have their shot on the mountain on Monday, as they prepare for the super combined event.

This event features two runs. The first, a high-octane downhill run is followed by a turn at the twisting, knee-jerking slalom. The fastest aggregate time of these two runs will take home the gold medal for this event.

The women's super combined downhill run will take place at 2 a.m. ET, and the slalom run will be at 6 a.m. ET on NBC. If a television is not accessible, you can live stream the event on NBCOlympics.com.

After all, missing this event would not be wise, as there are plenty of storylines that are sure to make a very intriguing and eventful Monday in Sochi.

 

Who is Really the Favorite?

Marco Trovati/Associated Press

Germany's Maria Hoefl-Riesch figures to be the hottest name in women's Alpine skiing in Sochi. She had a fantastic showing in Vancouver in 2010, taking home the gold medal in both the combined event as well as the slalom.

Over her career, she has accumulated a total of four gold medals in the combined event—two in the Junior World Ski Championships, one in the World Championships and one in the Olympics.

Hoefl-Riesch has been putting together some of the best runs of her career of late, as she went on to surpass Lindsey Vonn atop the World Cup standings in 2011. She has continued to be on point since then, earning her most recent gold medal in the combined event at Schladming's World Championships in 2013.

During an interview with GlobalPost.com, Hoefl-Riesch spoke about the track and her chances:

You can make a mistake in every turn and the one who makes the fewer mistakes or keeps the skis moving best will win. It's extremely icy and with really difficult turns, and then in the so-called flat bit...there's a lot of terrain, lots of rolls and unevenness, so it's not easy to ski. I'd say it's worthy of Olympics. I will do everything in my power but it won't be easy.

However, she will not be without competition, as Canada's Marie-Michele Gagnon has been on a hot streak.

The last time these two athletes met in the super combined, it was Gagnon who game out on top. In the World Cup in Austria, Gagnon's combined time of 2:05.55 minutes bested Hoefl-Riesch by .39 seconds.

Also in the mix in that event was Austria's Michaela Kirchgasser who also managed to finish ahead of Hoefl-Riesch by a mere .07 seconds.

These three will surely provide an intense battle during Monday's super combined event.

 

Can the U.S. Keep Up?

Gero Breloer/Associated Press

The United States enters the event as the underdog. It does have a viable chance to reach the podium; however, that chance is rather feint. The two best options for Team USA here are Julia Mancuso and Mikaela Shiffrin.

The 29-year-old Mancuso has been stellar when it comes to the giant slalom, having earned an Olympic gold medal in Turin in 2006. However, she has yet to earn an international gold medal in the super combined event in her adult career.

She did manage to come away with the silver medal in the event in Vancouver's Olympic Games in 2010. She also is ranked sixth in the super combined event in the 2013 World Cup standings—her best ranking since 2006.

During an interview with David Leon Moore of USA Today, Mancuso thinks the time of year may provide her with some success:

I would also say in my career that I have always had better results later in the season. I blame it on the cold growing up in California. It starts to get warmer in February. In general, it's a good opportunity and it excites me so I want to do well and, I don't know, everything just seems to come together.

Perhaps a recent hot streak is just what she needs to claim yet another Olympic medal.

At the young age of 18, Shiffrin comes in to Sochi as the United States' up-and-coming skier. Specializing in the slalom, she took home the event's gold medal in the 2013 World Championships in Schladming.

She should be able to produce in the slalom during the super combined; however, she will need a flawless run in the downhill part of the event to have a shot at the podium.

This will be Shiffrin's first Olympic Games, and nerves may be an issue. However, as with other younger athletes flourishing in this year's Olympics, that may prove to be a moot point.

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