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Olympics: Pin-up Fenninger basks in 'best day of her life'

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Anna Fenninger may be a pin-up for Austrian media, but the racer showed her true colours when she said it was an adrenaline-fuelled need for speed that fired her to Olympic super-G gold.

The 24-year-old timed 1min 25.52sec down the 2.1km-long Rosa Khutor course in warm conditions that made for softer snow conditions in part.

Amazingly, 18 out of the 49 starters, including 12 out of the top 30, failed to finish the course set by Austrian coach Florian Winkler, which made for gripping viewing for the sell-out 7,500-capacity crowd.

"Adrenaline is very high in super-G and that's what I like, to go fast," said Fenninger. "It's the best day of my life. It had been a big dream of mine for a long time, and today it came true. Today is my day."

After she skied out of Wednesday's downhill, there were concerns that the Austrian might again fail to deliver on her immense promise.

The 2011 super-combined world champion failed to live up to pre-championship hype at the Schaldming worlds last year, with "only" a giant slalom bronze to her name.

"It was two tough days," acknowledged Fenninger, who wears a helmet sporting cheetah markings in reference to her role as an ambassador for a Namibia-based conservation fund.

"It was very bitter for me that I couldn't finish the downhill. I had a good feeling and it was not so easy to say 'okay it's not my day'. I thought it was a big chance.

"Over the last two days, I trained hard and thought to myself how to get into the Olympic spirit."

Fenninger, added: "I was not that nervous, I just focused on the course. Maybe the downhill was motivating me that I could be fast here. I believed in myself today."

Turning to Winkler's testing course on even more demanding conditions, Fenninger said: "It's such a difficult track, but I have to give praise to the coach who set the course because you have to be so tactical.

- It's dangerous, but not a problem' -

"I didn't think it was going so well while I was going down. I thought the top bit went extremely well, the middle wasn't so good, and the bottom part was okay."

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 said she was grateful for her silver after a big error on the final lip, which she took too fast, her line going wide into the final series of gates into the finish area, including whizzing past one course worker who'd strayed very close to one gate.

"I was not influenced by that," the 29-year-old German insisted. "I saw the guy moving backwards away from the gate. Of course it shouldn't happen because it's dangerous but for me today it was not a problem.

"I made a big mistake on the last pitch. It was key to ski these turns perfectly, and I didn't.

"I thought that was going to cost me a lot of time and I thought I was way behind in the race for a medal."

Hoefl-Riesch added: "It's unbelievable. This is just crazy considering the kind of skill around me.

"This is my 10th medal and my first silver and, of course, gold would have been better, but I'm still very proud, especially because it was on such a difficult course."

Hosp had missed the Vancouver Games in 2010 because of a knee injury, but her bronze-medal showing confirmed her strong return to form.

"It's really nice for me," she beamed. "I was really happy when I heard that Florian was setting the course because he always sets really cool super-Gs.

"It was a real challenge today but there was no accidental winner, it was those who skied well and race tactically."

Hosp added: "This bronze was my last missing medal from all disciplines. I like to be a good skier in all disciplines."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140215/olympics-pin-fenninger-basks-best-day-her-life