KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — Anna Fenninger was in first place in the Olympic super-G on Saturday after the top 30 racers and was on the brink of capturing gold.
The only thing that could derail the 24-year-old Austrian was a surprise finish by one of the remaining lower-ranked skiers.
Fenninger finished the tricky course in 1 minute, 25.52 seconds. Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany was in second and Nicole Hosp of Austria was third.
The combination of soft snow and a tight course design by Florian Winkler of Austria had early skiers struggling to make it down. Of the opening eight racers, seven didn't finish.
"The setting is very hard," said Italian racer Daniela Merighetti, who carried too much speed around a gate and went off the course.
The Austrians certainly didn't have that much difficulty. Then again, this is an event they've dominated in past Olympics. Fenninger and Hosp would make it eight of a possible 24 medals since the super-G began at the 1988 Calgary Games.
Hoefl-Riesch and Hosp will add to their medal totals. They went 1-2 in the super-combined earlier this week.
Pre-race favorites Lara Gut of Switzerland and Tina Maze of Slovenia were fourth and fifth after the top 30. Julia Mancuso of the United States was eighth.
Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein didn't compete after hurting her right leg in a crash during downhill training last weekend. She inspected the course but was in too much pain to race.
Mancuso said she became hesitant after watching others struggle on the course.
"It's magic on race day and you can't care what everyone else is doing," Mancuso said. "I'm happy to make it to the finish."
The temperature at the start was around 45 degrees (7 degrees Celsius).
Andrea Fischbacher of Austria won super-G gold at the 2010 Vancouver Games, while Maze captured silver and Lindsey Vonn finished with the bronze. Vonn is out of the Sochi Games after having surgery on her knee.