Lindsey Vonn edges rival Tina Maze in giant slalom
Canada's Gagnon finishes 16th, Prefontaine 25th
Lindsey Vonn beat biggest rival Tina Maze on the Slovenian's home snow and in her best discipline Saturday, earning a surprising victory in a giant slalom in Maribor.
Vonn proved again that she is back to her best after an illness by putting down the fastest time in the second run in what is traditionally her weakest event, winning in two minutes, 22.2 seconds.
Vonn was third after the first run but overcame several errors in the second to create a margin that Maze couldn't bridge.
"In the second run I decided, OK, it's all or nothing, I had to go for it," Vonn said. "It's been a rough year for me in GS, so it's just perfect."
Maze was looking to win her home race for the third time and led after a near-perfect first run, but a poor start to the second cost her valuable time and she finished 0.08 seconds behind Vonn.
However, second place was enough to secure Maze a third giant slalom discipline title as her closest rival Kathrin Zettel only managed sixth. Maze is 238 points ahead of Zettel with just two GS races remaining this season.
Marie-Michele Gagnon of Lac-Etchemin, Que., finished 16th, while Marie-Pier Prefontaine of Ste-Agathe, Que., was 25th.
Vonn took nearly a month off over the holidays to recover her full strength after an intestinal illness landed her in a hospital in Colorado in November. While her break allowed Maze to build an even bigger lead in the overall standings, Vonn said it's clear she made the right decision.
This was Vonn's first GS victory — and podium finish — since March last year, and her second win in a week after taking the downhill at Cortina D'Ampezzo last Saturday.
"A couple of weeks ago, everyone was thinking I was crazy taking this time off," Vonn said. "But I felt my body wasn't ready. Now I am ready."
While the overall World Cup title may be Maze's to lose, Vonn will again be a favourite to dominate next month's world championships in Schladming, Austria, if she can maintain her current form.
This was also Vonn's 59th World Cup win overall and leaves her just three away from equaling Annemarie Moser Proell's record on the women's side.
Austria's Anna Fenninger was third, 0.57 seconds behind Vonn
Maze still extended her lead in the overall standing to 748 points over her closest challenger, Germany's Maria Hoefl-Riesch, who finished fourth. Vonn is another 66 points back in third.
The 29-year-old Maze has won four of the seven giant slaloms this season, making the podium in the other three.
"I had a mistake in the flat part," Maze said. "In my final run, I just had too many mistakes but I am very satisfied with second.
"I have been working so hard this year for this GS crystal globe. Now I've won it, I feel freed and can look forward."
Maze was 0.48 seconds ahead of Vonn after dominating the first run in front of a passionate home crowd.
However, she ran wide at the start of the second, leaving her 0.13 seconds behind her rival at the first checkpoint. Despite the cheers of the fans urging her on, Maze couldn't make up the time and finished with tears in her eyes.