SCHLADMING, Austria - Olympic champion Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany bounced back from a disappointing World Cup season to win the super-combined at the skiing world championships on Friday.
Hoefl-Riesch was fourth after the downhill portion before posting the second-fastest time in the slalom to finish in 2 minutes, 39.92 seconds. She beat Tina Maze of Slovenia by 0.46.
Former overall champion Nicole Hosp was fastest in the slalom and was one second behind in third to earn Austria its first medal at its home worlds.
"I can't believe it," Hoefl-Riesch said. "The last couple of weeks have not been easy. I had only two podiums this entire season so I wasn't coming here as a favorite. My goal was to win any medal, the color didn't matter to me. Incredible, it is gold."
Hoefl-Riesch appeared to enjoy a clean slalom run, but she said it wasn't.
"I am surprised as my slalom didn't feel great," she said after her sixth career medal from major championships. "I was a bit too conservative. I didn't finish my last two slaloms on the World Cup, so that made me cautious."
Maze had shared the lead after the first run with Austria's Anna Fenninger, who straddled a gate in the slalom. Lara Gut of Switzerland, who had the same downhill time as Hoefl-Riesch, also failed to finish.
"A classic mistake," said defending champion Fenninger, who was 1-2 with Maze at the worlds two years ago. "I don't train a lot of slalom, so timing was always going to be difficult."
After a freezing night with clear skies and temperatures sinking to minus-15 (5 F), the course was harder and icier compared to the downhill training runs.
Racers had to deal with a rougher and bumpier surface, making the turning sections of the course tougher to master.
Maze, who holds an 888-point lead in the overall World Cup standings over Hoefl-Riesch, the 2011 winner, lost speed after an early mistake in her slalom, which was set by her coach Livio Magoni.
The Slovenian still earned her second medal of the worlds after taking gold in Tuesday's super-G.
"I am not satisfied with my slalom run," Maze said. "I held back and showed too much respect. My downhill was pretty good though. Second place and a silver medal is a super result."
Maze won the only World Cup super-combined this season in December and started as a clear favorite for the world title.
"I felt a lot of pressure at the start. I tried to stay calm but that wasn't easy," Maze said. "People keep asking me about the possibility of winning five medals at the world championships. That door is still open and I won't close it."
Hosp earned her fifth medal in total at world championships, but her first since 2007, the same year she won the overall title.