Mon, Jan 24, 2005 - Page 20 News List

Tina Maze secures third giant-slalom victory of season

AP , MARIBOR, SLOVENIAAP, TITISEE-NEUSTADT, GERMANY

Tina Maze of Slovenia won her third women's giant slalom of the World Cup season on Saturday, much to the delight of 5,000 home fans.

Maze, making a charge at the discipline title, finished her two runs in 2 minutes, 16.36 seconds, .22 ahead of Karen Putzer of Italy on a cold, sunny day. It the was the fourth title of the Slovenian's career and her third in two months.

Maze said she could hear the cheering crowd -- waving banners with her picture -- before she even started her run down the Goldenfox slope.

"I almost froze up. Then I said, `Let's go, Tina, let's show them a good race,'" the 21-year-old Maze said. "I've been training here since I was a young child. This is very special."

Martina Ertl of Germany took third in 2:17.29, while Lindsey Kildow of the US enjoyed the best giant slalom race of her career, taking ninth in 2:17.99.

The 20-year-old Kildow, a speed specialist, had failed to complete any of her three previous giant slaloms after breaking onto the scene with a downhill win at Lake Louise and piling up seven more podium finishes since.

Maze was just ahead of Putzer at the first timed interval before crossing the finish line with a comfortable win and throwing up her arms in triumph.

The 31-year old Ertl said she was happy with her third at a course she knew well, having won twice.

"In the second heat, I couldn't have run any better," said Ertl, who moved up from sixth.

American Julia Mancuso tied with Nicole Hosp of Austria for fifth in 2:17.58, while the giant slalom and overall leader Tanja Poutiainen of Finland ended up seventh.

Maze said she was gaining confidence for the world championships, which start on Jan. 28 in Santa Caterina.

"If I can overcome all the pressures and fears till now, then I can do well in the future," said Maze, citing the way she couldn't finish races earlier this year.

Poutiainen's worse performance this season in the giant slalom trimmed her lead in a three-way race. The Finn has 381 points, followed by Anja Paerson of Sweden with 350 and Maze with 328. There are two races left in the discipline.

Poutiainen also leads the overall standings with 842 points, with Renate Goetschl of Austria in second place with 804 and Janica Kostelic of Croatia with 799.

Janne Ahonen of Finland soared to a record-setting 12th victory of the season, winning Saturday's large hill ski jumping World Cup event.

Ahonen, the runaway World Cup leader, trailed Thomas Morgenstern of Austria after the first heat. Although Ahonen had a longer jump at 142 meters, the Austrian, with a jump of 139 meters, collected more points.

In the second heat, Ahonen landed a jump of 138 meters, good enough to give him a winning total of 283.5 points for a narrow victory over Jakub Janda of the Czech Republic.

Janda, a distant second in the overall standings, was only sixth after the first series but improved with a jump of 138.5 meters for a total of 281.5 points.

Morgenstern had to settle for third place after a second-heat jump of 134 meters. That gave him a total of 278.4 points.

Ahonen is the first competitor to secure 12 victories in a season. German Martin Schmitt and Adam Malysz of Poland have won 11 each. After 16 events, Ahonen has compiled a commanding lead, having also secured two second places.

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