- Associated Press - Friday, January 17, 2014

CORTINA D’AMPEZZO, Italy (AP) - The Sochi Olympics are exactly three weeks away and Maria Hoefl-Riesch is calm as can be.

“I’m already double Olympic champion. Nobody can take this away from me,” the German skier said. “It would be great to do it again and win another gold medal or another medal.”

And if not, she says, the world will still turn.

At the 2010 Vancouver Games, Hoefl-Riesch won gold in super-combined and slalom.

“I will be nervous when I am in the start gate, but the fact that I already have two Olympic gold medals is making me a little bit more cool,” Hoefl-Riesch added after leading the opening training session for a World Cup downhill Thursday. Friday’s second training session was canceled because of heavy snowfall.

In Sochi, Hoefl-Riesch will again be the favorite in the super-combined. But she will have to contend with American teenager Mikaela Shiffrin in the slalom and will also be a contender in downhill and super-G - especially without injured Lindsey Vonn.

“I will do all (five) events in Sochi, so I have some more chances,” Hoefl-Riesch said. “On the one side it’s an advantage because you don’t have to put too much pressure on you for only one race. But on the other side you don’t have time for training and to prepare for one single event really good. So it’s always advantages and disadvantages. But I try to make the best out of it and then we will see.”

Hoefl-Riesch leads the overall World Cup and downhill standings entering this weekend’s races.

“You need good results in the World Cup to have confidence for the Olympics,” she said Thursday. “An Olympic medal is the biggest goal you can have but it’s just one race. You can’t force it, it just has to happen.”

In Vancouver, Hoefl-Riesch’s success came amid struggles in the speed events of downhill and super-G, having finished eighth in both those events.

“You just need to be confident and everything must go together for you on that day - the course setting must be good for you, the snow conditions, your form at that day. Everything,” she said. “Then you need some luck as well. That’s why I say you can’t force it. It just has to happen.”

Hoefl-Riesch, who married her manager Marcus Hoefl in 2011, won the downhill at the Sochi test event two years ago.

“I heard they changed it a little bit. But two years ago when we were there I liked it a lot,” she said, referring to the Sochi course. “But I also felt really comfortable on the Whistler downhill before the (Vancouver) Olympics and then I was not skiing well at the Olympics because the conditions were totally different. So you never know what’s going to happen there with the weather, so let’s just go there and see.”

In Vancouver, the German skiers stayed outside the Olympic village. This time, with the Sochi village for skiers located halfway up the mountain, they’ll be back inside the Olympic bubble.

“Everything is close together and we just have to take that one gondola to get into the ski area,” she said. “To feel that Olympic flare in the village must be really special and I’m excited.”


Follow Andrew Dampf at https://twitter.com/asdampf



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