Wed, Feb 19, 2014 - Page 20 News List

Maze strikes double gold in giant slalom

SOLE WINNER:Slovenia’s Tina Maze narrowly avoided having to share her second gold after splitting her first, as she edged silver medalist Fenninger by 0.07 seconds

Reuters and AFP, ROSA KHUTOR, Russia

Slovenia’s Tina Maze yesterday celebrates winning the women’s giant slalom gold at the Sochi Olympics at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center in Russia.

Photo: Reuters

Tina Maze of Slovenia swept through the clouds and rain yesterday to win her second gold of the Sochi Olympics after edging Austrian Anna Fenninger in the women’s giant slalom.

Maze was in the first-ever Olympic Alpine skiing tie in the downhill, in which she clocked the same time as Swiss Dominique Gisin, and was only 0.07 seconds away from a repeat in the slalom despite building a half-second lead in the first run.

Germany’s Viktoria Rebensburg, the giant slalom champion in Vancouver four years ago, produced a superb second run to snatch the bronze behind Fenninger, who won the super-G gold at the weekend.

After disappointment in the opening super combined race at Rosa Khutor, Russia, where she missed a medal, all-rounder Maze has gone from strength to strength.

“I feel really wet, but I feel great to win my second gold,” Maze, who won last season’s overall World Cup with a record-breaking points total, told reporters.

Having carved out a 0.52 second advantage in the first run, Maze was the favorite to win when the second run began after a short delay due to a snowstorm at the top of the hill.

US teenager Mikaela Shiffrin — fifth after the first leg — briefly looked in contention for a medal in her Olympic debut, but stayed fifth.

Rebensburg’s second attempt through the 54 gates elevated her to third, 0.10 seconds behind Fenninger, who was delighted with a silver to add to her super-G gold.

“If [before the Games] someone said I would get two medals, I would have said: ‘That’s nice, but it’s too hard,’” Fenninger said.

Former Olympic giant slalom champ Julia Mancuso of the US missed a gate in her first run, while another contender, Germany’s Maria Hoefl-Riesch, did not start.

Violin virtuoso Vanessa Mae, Thailand’s first-ever Olympic female skier, came last, but was still bubbling with joy after finishing the slushy course.

The Singapore-born Brit came through the finish line in 67th place after two runs, a massive 50.10 seconds behind Maze.

Coming hesitantly out of the starting gate, Mae clocked 3 minutes, 26.97 seconds down the course, 11.35 seconds behind her closest rival, Xia Lina of China. However, unlike 22 others who failed to make it down, the former child prodigy finished both runs

The 35-year-old Mae, who raced under the name Vanessa Vanakorn, said she was happy with her result.

“I expected to be last, but at the end of the day, the Olympics is a great opportunity,” she said after her first run. “I nearly crashed three times, but I made it down and that was the main thing.”

“I’m a last-minute kind of girl, I mean training for the Olympics with six months to go was a last-minute thing,” Mae added. “My main purpose of being here was to really have a good time, to improve my skiing in a very short amount of time.”

Although a UK citizen, strict British Olympic Association rules on team selection for alpine skiing saw Mae take Thai citizenship in her bid to compete in the Games.

The violinist — who has said music is her “lifelong passion” and skiing her “lifelong hobby” — dismissed talk of a skiing injury possibly hurting her other career.

“You have to take risks in life at the end of the day. You can insure yourself up to your eyeball, but you won’t enjoy life,” she said.

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