Tina Maze wins World Cup slalom, takes discipline lead
Canada's Marie-Michelle Gagnon 4th
Overall champion Tina Maze of Slovenia beat Mikaela Shiffrin in a World Cup slalom on Sunday in Ofterschwang, Germany, to overtake the American teenager in the discipline standings and close in on becoming the first woman to win five crystal globes in a season.
Maze also got a piece of another record in a season where she has already broken several, equaling Austrian great Hermann Maier's mark of 22 World Cup podiums in the 1999-2000 campaign. The Slovenian had already broken Maier's record for points in a season, and extended her total to 2,254 with her 10th win of the season.
Maze finished her two runs on the Ofterschwanger Horn course in 1 minute, 52.85 seconds to beat Wendy Holdener of Switzerland by 0.25 seconds.
More importantly though, she beat the 17-year-old Shiffrin after trailing the American world champion by one tenth of a second in the first run. Shiffrin couldn't protect her lead and finished 0.75 behind in third place, giving Maze a seven-point lead in the slalom standings going into next Saturday's last race of the season.
"There was a bit of nervousness there, because it's a discipline in which you have to attack and risk a little bit," Maze said. "So for me today, it was important just to stay calm and ski - not to think too much."
With a win worth 100 points and second place getting 80, a win for either Shiffrin or Maze in the last race would secure the slalom title and the crystal globe that comes with it.
"It isn't over until the fat lady sings. It's good that it's exciting to the end," Shiffrin said. "I'll just go as hard as I can and see if I can get (the lead) back. If not, I've still had an amazing season so I can't be disappointed. I can definitely be proud of myself but you always want more."
The 29-year-old Maze has already clinched the overall and giant slalom titles. She leads the super-G standings as well as the slalom, and can also clinch the downhill title at next week's World Cup finals at Lenzerheide, Switzerland.
Marie-Michelle Gagnon, of Lac-Etchemin, Que., was fourth.
"It feels great. I definitely attacked a lot more — I was just like, 'There's nothing to lose here,"' said Gagnon. "I'm just really happy to have one good result. I'm excited for [World Cup finals in] Lenzerheide. I will get a podium next weekend."
Erin Mielzynski of Guelph, Ont., who won here last year, straddled a gate in her second run and didn't finish.
Shiffrin had been bidding to become only the second woman to win four World Cup slaloms in a season at age 17 or younger and won't have the chance again as she turns 18 on Wednesday.
German skier Christa Zechmeister achieved the feat in 1973-74 as a 16-year-old.
"I definitely wanted to win," Shiffrin said. "But in the end I'm just trying to ski my best and I didn't quite do that the second run, so I just need to go back and look at my video and see what I can do better."
Holdener celebrated her first career podium finish as if she'd won the race, dancing with joy in the finish area, much to the appreciation of the 7,200 spectators.
"I'll enjoy this for a while yet," Holdener said.
Swedes Maria Pietilae-Holmner and Frieda Hansdotter were fifth and sixth, respectively.
Local favourite Maria Hoefl-Riesch skied out in the first run and there was further disappointment for the home crowd in the second, when Christina Geiger from the nearby town of Oberstdorf also failed to finish.
The race was held up for several minutes after Anne-Sophie Barthet of France crashed near the finish and needed treatment.