Friday, February 22, 2013
Tina Maze nears World Cup sweep
MERIBEL, France -- Tina Maze is a downhill victory away from history.
The 29-year-old from Slovenia can become only the third woman to win all five disciplines in a single season with a victory Saturday, matching Austria's Petra Kronberger (1990-91) and Croatia's Janica Kostelic (2005-06) in clinching a single-season sweep of slalom, giant slalom, downhill, super-combined and super-G.
"It's an amazing season and now I'm also skiing well in downhill," said Maze, who was fastest in training Thursday and second on Friday. "I was working for that and now my goals are coming true. So I'm really proud."
Marc Girardelli completed a men's season sweep in 1988-89.
In the World Cup last season, Maze finished second overall behind Lindsey Vonn without winning a race. But she's won seven races with 17 podium finishes so far this season, leaving her one short of tying the women's record held by Pernilla Wiberg of Sweden and Hanni Wenzel of Liechtenstein.
Maze has won four giant slalom races and one each in super-combined, slalom and super-G. She holds a massive 888-point lead over second-place Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany.
At the recent world championships, Maze won gold in super-G and silver in super-combined and giant slalom. Maze agrees that despite intense preseason preparations, she has surprised herself this season.
"Actually, yeah," she said. "We were working for that in the summer, trying to get some speed skills. I think I needed a lot of years to be a speed skier."
Vonn and Anja Paerson have won all five disciplines, along with Maze, but not in the same season.
Maze also wants to become the first woman to break the 2,000-point barrier. She has 1,694 points and is among the top three for all five globes, underlining her outstanding consistency.
Her only World Cup downhill win came five years ago in the Swiss resort of St. Moritz. Downhill was a struggle early in her career and she finished in the top 10 of the downhill standings for the first time in 2009 -- placing sixth -- but dropped to 25th the following season.
She admits her approach was too cautious and hampered by a lack of preparation.
"It's a question of speed and how do you accept the speed. I'm not a person that will risk her body," Maze said. "Now I feel OK when I go fast, I have no fears, I can attack, be relaxed. Until now I never felt so good in the speed, that's why I wasn't risking skiing fast."
She gained confidence by working on her downhill with members of the Austrian men's ski team.
"We were training two years in Portillo (Chile) doing tough downhills with the men, trying to get more training before the season," she said. "Before, I had two days of downhill before I went to Lake Louise, so if you're coming there and doing all five events ... you're not training (properly), you risk a lot."
Hoefl-Riesch, the World Cup winner two years ago, has noticed a difference in Maze.
"Considering she's doing all events, it's the best I've seen (from her)," Hoefl-Riesch said Friday. "She is in great physical shape and her equipment is fitting perfect for all conditions ... it was hard to keep up with her this season."
She may be hard to reach next season, too.
"Today we were talking about testing at the end of the season, so things are going forward," she said. "I will be more than happy to have pressure and handle it on the slope. Until now I was always the first one that made pressure on myself, and I wanted to be better and better. But now I'm No. 1, I'm proud of that."
She's also proud of making people happy back home.
"Sport is one of the most positive things in Slovenia and people are always writing to me, happy to see me (win)," she said. "In these tough times, if you make your country happy -- with one run or one minute of work -- it's the most beautiful thing you can do."