Maze and Fenninger flip places
Special to the Daily
BEAVER CREEK – After her silver-medal performance in the FIS Alpine World Ski Championship super-G race, Tina Maze finished 0.03 seconds behind gold medalist Anna Fenninger, but in Friday’s downhill, the hundredths fell in the favor of the Slovenian.
Whipping down the steep, turny course, Maze said she made a mistake but still managed to win the gold medal, edging out Fenninger by 0.02 seconds.
“I realized I love this hill,” Maze said after the race. “I didn’t understand it at first — the timing, the waves, the bumps … then it was much easier for me. I was on the start watching Anna. I knew she would be the one to beat. It was hard to ski. I was sure I (wouldn’t) be able to win because I made a mistake coming on the last flat before the jump. I thought, ‘Yeah, this is not going to be enough.’ Without mistakes, it would be better, but at the end, it’s gold.”
Performance for the ages
It is the eighth World Championship medal for Maze, her third gold. She also has four Olympic medals — two gold — under her belt. At the age of 31, she is the oldest female World Champion in alpine skiing.
“I don’t feel old,” Maze said, mentioning that earlier this week she told someone she was 16. “I don’t feel old at all. I was never injured. That’s my big thing.”
Maze is the only all-discipline racer in these World Championships who stands a very good chance of winning five medals.
“Of course it’s in my mind, but thinking about it makes no sense,” she said. “You have to go day by day, discipline to discipline.”
Fenninger, who after her gold medal super-G performance on Tuesday acknowledged that luck was on her side that day with the hundredths, was still happy with the silver, her first medal in downhill.
“Downhill was always so difficult for me,” said the 25-year-old Austrian who has seven World Cup podiums in the discipline but no wins. “I’m really happy that I can take the silver medal. Today (Maze) was the luckier girl.”
While Maze said Fenninger was the woman to beat in the downhill, Fenninger had her eye Lara Gut as the favorite.
The 23-year-old Swiss skier who won both the downhill and super-G World Cup races at Beaver Creek in 2013 as well as the most recent World Cup downhill in St. Moritz, Switzerland, managed to land the bronze medal on Friday, 0.34 seconds off the winning time, but was not thrilled with her result.
“The thing is, when you’re an athlete, you work to ski well. You work to be happy with your performance. It’s always happy to have a medal abut sad when you’re not satisfied with your skiing,” Gut said. “I’m disappointed I didn’t bring everything I could. I made a stupid mistake at the top where I’m always the fastest. I have to work hard and do better. I can do what Tina and Anna are doing.”
Vonn off the podium
The top of the course is where most racers were the fastest, but holding that speed around the many swooping turns proved difficult for just about everybody. Following the medal winners, the fourth-place finisher onward were at least a full second behind.
Lindsey Vonn, the obvious local favorite, ended up fifth, 1.05 seconds back. While Maze said she had made friends with the Beaver Creek Raptor course, Vonn, who missed the World Cups last season, said she has not quite made her truce with it.
“You have to hit the line right in a couple of key sections. Today with the faster speeds my timing was a little bit off … sometimes a bit too early, sometimes a bit too late. I just really haven’t gotten a great feel for the course yet,” Vonn said, mentioning that she will race in the alpine combined and giant slalom races and that while she was sorry she couldn’t put on a better show in her best event, she was satisfied. “I’m happy. Honestly, I did the best that I could.”
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In a fraction of a second I went from a full sprint to skidding across the ground — pea-sized gravel gashing my knees and elbows, turning them into strawberry crisp.