Maria Höfl-Riesch the most successful alpine skier on the German Olympic team. The Sochi Winter Games could be the crowning moment of her career.
Maria Höfl-Riesch is the biggest star on the German Olympic team, she loves to give interviews and journalists and photographers follow her around wherever she goes. After she hinted that the Sochi Games may be her last Olympics, media interest grew even more.
Maria was only three when she started skiing. Two years later she joined skiing club SC Partenkirchen in her home town in the Bavarian Alps. Since then skiing has dominated her life. She first turned up on the German Skiing Association's radar when she came in second in a major youth ski tournament at the age of 14. From then on she was a member of the German youth team, winning several titles.
At senior level she has won 26 World Cup races to date and has reached the podium a total of 79 times- more than any other German skier. She has won the World Championship twice, in 2009 and 2013.
But the highlight of her career to date came at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver four years ago, when she won two gold medals, in the super combination and the slalom events. She is the first German skier to make it into the top 10 in all five alpine events. When she was named Germany's Female Athlete of the Year in 2010, Höfl-Riesch, then 26, appeared to have reached the pinnacle of her career.
Setback - and a successful comeback
But along with her long list of successes, she has also experienced setbacks. One of Maria's darkest moments came in 2005 when she had an accident during the Aspen giant slalom event and badly injured her knee: a torn cruciate ligament, a rupture of the meniscus and the cartilage. That ended not only that skiing season, but also her dream of competing a the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin.
"Back then I did not know whether I would ever be able to pursue my career again," Höfl-Riesch said later.
But she managed an impressive comeback the following winter, winning the first World Cup race of the season.
"I simply believed in myself, in my talent. And then I worked like a maniac. I knew that this was the key to catching up with the world's top skiers again," she explained.
Rising to another challenge
But with the rise of Slovenian skier Tina Maze, Maria needed to up her game yet again. To do this, she turned to Heinrich Bergmüller, who is known for his tough coaching methods.
"He put me through the toughest, most brutal training program," Maria recalled. For weeks she spent up to eight hours on a fitness bike and pushing weights. And the special training paid off: She has built up more muscle mass and is generally fitter than ever before.
But in recent months she has also spoken of exhaustion, saying she found it harder and harder to pack her skis in the summer and leave Germany for the snowy slopes of New Zealand or the US to commence her training for the next season. While she has not yet made a decision, "if things go really well in Sochi, that would be a good point in time to end my career," she told reporters prior to her departure for the Games.
She also said she was making plans for a professional career beyond the world of winter sports.
"I'd like to develop my own fashion label or cosmetics products," she said. Her first jewellery collection with the brand name "Maria" is to go on sale this month. If all goes well, Maria Höfl-Riesch could benefit from a continued interest in her endeavors even after her sporting career is over - this time from fashion reporters and photographers.