By Martyn Herman
ROSA KHUTOR, Russia (Reuters) - Maria Hoefl-Riesch acknowledges her chances of winning a record-equaling fourth Olympic gold were wrecked by a high-velocity mistake when in sight of victory in Saturday's super-G.
The German flyer was fractionally ahead of eventual winner Anna Fenninger on the clock but a huge error over the final ridge cost her victory and a share of the women's Olympic medal record of Janica Kostelic.
Settling for silver, to go with the gold she won in the super combined, Hoefl-Riesch blamed herself rather than a course worker who came very close to her line towards the finish.
"I noticed him of course," said Hoefl-Riesch, who finished 0.55 seconds behind Austria's Fenninger and a tenth quicker than third-placed Nicole Hosp.
"You always look a gate ahead. I saw him but he didn't stand in my line, so it was no irritation for me. He was on the other side of the gate, he didn't bother me too much."
On the costly mistake on a section of the course that caused havoc throughout the race, she said she almost abandoned her run.
"I was on the verge of veering off. I didn't think I was this fast," she said. "It (the silver) was almost a bigger joy than the combined gold because it was such a surprise.
"I didn't expect that for the life of me. That's why I was so happy when I crossed the finish line."
Austrian course setter Florian Winkler said he thought Riesch had won it before her late mistake.
"Maria is incredible," he said. "She's behind at the top and then ahead again. We were lucky she made a mistake at the bottom. Otherwise she would have been a hot one for gold again."
Hoefl-Riesch, the overall World Cup leader, has two more chances to match Kostelic in Rosa Khutor but admitted she had "no realistic chance" in next week's slalom events.
"The program is tough and my biggest chances are over now," the tall 29-year-old told reporters in summer-like temperatures in the slushy finish area.
"I have no realistic chance in giant slalom and in slalom.
"I could have some, but if you look at how it has developed in terms of specialization and that the slalomists are only just arriving now and have been able to prepare properly for the race, it will be very, very difficult.
"But no matter what happens next week, I go home happy."
Hoefl-Riesch won two golds in Vancouver four years ago when she became the first skier to finish in the top 10 in all five Alpine disciplines. But she said winning gold is not the be-all and end-all.
"This is a big day for me too because it's my first silver medal from a major championships," she said.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Robert Woodward)