Tahoe’s Julia Mancuso takes bronze in super combined 

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KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — In Alpine skiing, there are speed specialists and there are technical specialists, and then there’s Maria Hoefl-Riesch.

As versatile as they come, the German is establishing herself as one of the very best ever — and she owns three Olympic golds to prove it.

Solid in Monday morning’s downhill run, then much more special in the afternoon’s slalom, Hoefl-Riesch won the super-combined — the event intended to measure all-around skill — for the second Winter Games in a row.

Her total time of 2 minutes, 34.62 seconds was 0.40 seconds faster than silver medalist Nicole Hosp of Austria. Hoefl-Riesch was 0.53 better than first-run leader Julia Mancuso, whose bronze was her fourth career Olympic medal in Alpine skiing, twice as many as any other U.S. woman has won.

Mancuso, from Squaw Valley in the Lake Tahoe area, was the super-combined Olympic silver medalist in 2010, but she hadn’t even raced a full-length slalom since January 2013.

“I could definitely risk more, but without having the slalom mileage, it’s really tough to snap off turns and try to make up speed,” Mancuso said. “It’s more just: Survive and get to the finish.”

Mancuso labored through a tough run-up to Sochi, failing to finish better than seventh in any World Cup race. But she sure knows how to turn things on when it’s the Olympics.

She’s earned at least one medal at each of the last three Winter Games, including a gold in giant slalom at the 2006 Turin Olympics, and a pair of silvers in 2010, when she ceded the spotlight to U.S. teammate Lindsey Vonn.

Perhaps because of the way the past few months have gone, bothered by trouble picking boots that felt comfortable and fighting self-doubt, Mancuso celebrated Monday’s bronze more vigorously than Hoefl-Riesch toasted her own gold.

Mancuso pumped a fist. She jumped in the air. She shimmied on the podium during the flower ceremony.

“The first thing that went through my head is, ‘See?! I CAN do it!’ If you really believe, if you really, really believe, and if you’re really, really positive, and if you just put it out there and go for it all the time, then good things will happen,” Mancuso said. “And that was cool.”

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