Skier Tina Maze eyes single-season records
CORTINA D'AMPEZZO, Italy -- Tina Maze is dominating the World Cup ski circuit this season.
The Slovenian has six wins, 13 podium finishes and a massive 590-point lead over her closest challenger in the overall standings. With a super-G victory last weekend, Maze became the sixth woman with career wins in all five disciplines.
Maze will race the downhill Saturday in Cortina, which is considered the most prestigious downhill on the women's circuit. Maze finished fourth here a year ago.
"I like Cortina because my name is in it," Maze said. "It's one of my favorite places -- it's beautiful and the mountains are spectacular."
Maze also wants to become the first woman to break the 2,000-point barrier, and she declared Thursday she aims to join a select group of all-around skiers who have World Cup victories in all five disciplines in a single season.
"You need to keep yourself motivated and always make new goals," Maze said. "When you are in this good shape, it's all possible."
Lindsey Vonn came close to the 2,000-point barrier with 1,980 last season, while Hermann Maier set the men's mark with 2,000 in 1999-2000.
Slightly more than halfway through the season, Maze has 1,334 points in the overall standings, far ahead of second-place Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany (744) and Vonn (504).
"It's all possible if you let your body and your head free, not focus too much on 2,000 points or five wins," Maze said.
Only two women have won in all five disciplines in a single season. Austrian great Petra Kronberger did it in 1990-91 and Croatian standout Janica Kostelic accomplished the feat in 2005-06. The only man to do it was Marc Girardelli in 1988-89.
Vonn and Maze had a friendly rivalry that took a turn last month.
Vonn edged Maze in the super-G on Dec. 8 in St. Moritz, Switzerland, to remain perfect in four speed races. But Maze's team stoked a controversy, suggesting Vonn hurled an expletive toward her after she crossed the finish line.
Vonn acknowledged she used a curse word as an expression of relief. But the Slovenian team filed an official protest for "unsportsmanlike behavior," which was later dismissed by the World Cup women's race director.
The women seemed unfazed by the controversy, with Vonn and Maze hugging on the podium with no trace of tension.
Of Maze's six victories this season, four were in giant slalom, one in super-combined and one in super-G. All that's missing are downhill and slalom wins -- and she has already showed she's a threat in those disciplines.
Last weekend, Maze finished fourth in the downhill in St. Anton. She's also been in the top five in five slaloms this season, and is second in the slalom standings behind American teen Mikaela Shiffrin.
"There are still many downhills and many slaloms, so yes, it's possible," said Andrea Massi, Maze's coach.
Of the two, downhill is the bigger challenge.
Maze began as a technical skier and started training seriously in speed with the powerful Austrian men's downhill team in Portillo, Chile, only in the past two summers.
"It was a really important experience for me," said Maze, who won the only downhill of her career in St. Moritz in 2008. "Before I never trained downhill.
"I don't feel afraid now if it's really fast or if it's bumpy," she added. "I'm feeling really confident in the speed events, and if you're confident and there's no stress you can just be relaxed with your body. It's better that way. Stress is not a good idea in downhill. You need to be calm."
Maze also feels a special connection with Cortina because Massi, who is also her boyfriend, learned to ski here. His grandfather bought a house in Cortina for the 1956 Olympics and the family still owns it.
"It's almost like a home race," Maze said.
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press
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