Maze going strong with another gold medal
Special to the Vail Daily
BEAVER CREEK — Tina Maze proved once again that she is the master of all skis and all racecourses, no matter the length, shape or condition.
After leading the downhill portion of the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships women’s combined, the Slovenian held on for the win, dicing through the slalom course and landing her third-straight medal in these Championships, the second gold.
Already the most successful athlete in any sport in Slovenian history, the 31-year-old edged out Austrian veterans Nicole Hosp and Michaela Kirchgasser, who, respectively, took the silver and bronze medals.
“It was a hard win today,” said Maze, who edged out Lara Gut by 0.02 seconds for the lead after the downhill portion of the race and was the last woman down the slalom course, which was softening throughout the race in the 45-degree weather, and managed to cross the finish line 0.22 seconds ahead for gold. “Today was one of those days where I felt not 100 percent, that I don’t know how it will go. It was hard starting 30th. The slope was getting a little bit of the sun, but that’s the way it is. It’s not every day that you win the races that you are not 100 percent hungry for.”
In spite of her weariness, Maze managed to step out of her skis and do a cartwheel in the finish area after her win. One of few racers in these Championships competing in all five events, Maze’s days have been full of not just winning medals but fervently training in the morning and afternoon for upcoming events.
“This downhill is one of the toughest downhill’s I’ve skied. Today it was icy and bumpy. Then doing slalom on 3,000 meters (elevation), that’s tough, too. Breathing is hard,” Maze said. “Maybe I’ll do the team event with my team. Ha ha. I’m joking. I will take a break tomorrow for sure. Some of the Slovenian journalists asked why I’m not doing the team event, and I said what I’m doing is already crazy.”
Maze has won 13 medals in her career — nine World Championships and four Olympic. Monday’s victory was her first gold medal in the combined event. Maze knows that she could medal in the giant slalom and slalom events, too, but she is taking one race at a time.
“I’m not thinking about medals on the start. It would be awesome to (win a medal in every event). Of course it’s not easy. You just need to be focused on your run on the hill,” she said.
Hosp, who put down both a tremendous downhill and slalom run and finished 0.22 behind Maze for the silver medal (the 11th medal of her long and tumultuous ski career), was more than focused following a disappointing super-G race, in which she missed a gate, and failing to qualify for a start in the downhill.
“I just think of the positive energy and positive mind. For me it works,” said the 31-year-old Austrian who also landed a win earlier this season in the Aspen World Cup slalom race, her first victory since 2008, after which she sustained a series of knee injuries. “I know what I have to do for big events. I just focus on me, push everything else away and it works.”
Kirchgasser, a tech specialist who rarely dons speed skis, could not believe her downhill run on the Raptor course, in which she finished a respectable eighth, 1.33 seconds back, just behind Lindsey Vonn, who went on to miss a gate in the slalom. Kirchgasser earned the bronze just 0.35 seconds off of Maze’s winning combined time.
“When I crossed the finish line just 1.3 behind, I couldn’t believe it,” said the Austria, who will turn 30 next month and whose only other Championships medal was a silver in her 2013 home event in Schladming. “It’s such a demanding and challenging slope. I thought after the downhill, I would take the good vibes with me and make a perfect slalom. I think I did pretty well.”
Unlike other World Championships disciplines, the time gap between top finishers was enormous in Monday’s combined race. Anna Fenninger, 0.26 seconds back after the downhill portion of the race, put down a solid slalom run but still ended up fourth, 0.89 seconds back. Gut, who was just 0.02 seconds behind Maze after the downhill run, ended up in fifth, 0.94 seconds back. After sixth-place Kathrin Zettel, who was 1.64 seconds off of the winning pace, the remainder of the field was well over two seconds out.
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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.