Alpine Skiing: Will Sochi Hangovers Hit Winter Olympics Stars in the World Cup?

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Alpine Skiing: Will Sochi Hangovers Hit Winter Olympics Stars in the World Cup?
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Germany's Maria Hoefl-Riesch will want to build on a great Olympics by successfully completing what has been a similarly impressive World Cup campaign.

The sight of Mario Matt successfully navigating the twists and turns of the Rosa Khutor slalom course last Saturday will be the last Alpine skiing many watch for a while. Such is the significance and grand scale of the Winter Olympics—it cannot help but have a finale quality about it.

Of course, for those eager for more, that was not the last glimpse of world-class skiing this winter. The FIS World Cup season is far from over, with the latest meets taking place this weekend in Crans-Montana, Switzerland (women) and Kvitfjell, Norway (men).

As noted by Olympic super combined bronze medalist Julia Mancuso, for many of the stars of Sochi it has been a whirlwind week:

For medalists especially, getting in the right frame of mind after the jubilation that comes from success on such a big stage could potentially be tricky. For most, though, professionalism will be the order of the day with targets still to be achieved.

Germany's Maria Hoefl-Riesch (main picture, above)—Olympic gold and silver medalist in the super combined and super-G, respectively—has a chance to seal the ladies' downhill title this weekend. With closest challenger Tina Weirather's season coming to an injury-enforced end, Hoefl-Riesch will certainly not want to rest on her laurels with further accomplishments within reach.

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Lara Gut was disappointed to miss out on gold in the downhill at Sochi.

Having never previously won the downhill title, it would be a notable career landmark for the 29-year-old. One that, with just three race weekends remaining, would also stand her in good stead for the overall competition she currently tops (with Weirather injured, third placed Anna Fenninger is her last likely obstacle there).

Olympic medals mean different things for different competitors within their overall ambitions.

For the likes of Sandro Viletta (gold in the men's super combined) and Andrew Weibrecht (silver in the super-G), they were well-deserved, but undeniably surprise successes from skiers who rarely make a peep on the World Cup circuit.

For Lara Gut of Switzerland, one of the rising stars of the sport, her bronze medal in the Olympic downhill was tinged with disappointment. Though overcoming her initial frustration...:

...the 22-year-old was still admittedly gutted at knowing that a slightly improved run would probably have seen her win a race so tightly contested that there were two gold medalists.

"It's the first time that I saw that gold medal so close and I'm sorry for my mistake," Gut said on her official Facebook page. "But to be on the Downhill podium at the Olympics with such great athletes as Tina (Maze) and Dominique (Gisin) make me proud!"

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Back in 2006, Janica Kostelic of Croatia demonstrated how to follow a good Olympic campaign by finishing off her World Cup year in style.

Gut will want to add to her five World Cup wins already this season. Based on her putting in the fastest downhill training run at Crans-Montana on Thursday, she seems motivated.

In the past, Olympic champions and medalists have certainly responded differently to getting back to work.

Following Turin 2006, Janica Kostelic proved her determination had not diminished following her combined gold in Italy. The Croatian great took a four more wins that season, sealing the combined, slalom and overall titles in the process.

American star Lindsey Vonn followed suit four years later after her downhill victory in Vancouver. A further downhill win (funnily enough, also in Crans-Montana, the last time the women raced there) and a super-G win in Garmisch, Germany, helped her win the titles in both those disciplines in a season she also took the overall and combined crowns.

Naturally, the remaining World Cup weeks are not just about those who took home a new addition for their trophy cabinet.

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Aksel Lund Svindal will be leaping at the chance to get back into action after Olympic heartbreak.

Plenty of others will be looking to finish the season on a high after lows in Sochi. Perhaps none more so than Aksel Lund Svindal.

The Norwegian failed to build on his steady form prior to heading to Russia and left the Games early without a medal. With the overall, downhill and super-G titles still within reach (he currently leads the latter two tables), Svindal can still make 2014 a year to remember.

The glitz and glamour of the Winter Olympics may be in storage for another four years, but there is still plenty of great racing ahead before the skis, goggles and assorted gear go away for the spring too.

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