Tina Maze wins rainy Olympic giant slalom
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — Tina Maze skied through rain and snow to win Olympic gold, and then swam through slush to celebrate.
In tough conditions on the slopes above Sochi, Maze won her second gold medal of the 2014 Games on Tuesday by leading the giant slalom from start to finish.
Wearing bib No. 1, the Slovene skied cautiously and cleanly through the gates to finish 0.07 seconds ahead of Anna Fenninger of Austria.
Maze celebrated by belly-flopping onto the wet snow and pretending to swim the breaststroke.
“Didn’t you feel like in (a) swimming pool? We are all wet, so I said, ‘Why not?’” Maze said. “It’s been a great day for me.”
Defending champion Viktoria Rebensburg of Germany was third, trailing 0.27 behind Maze’s two-run time of 2 minutes, 36.87 seconds.
American teenager Mikaela Shiffrin placed fifth in her Olympic debut, missing a medal by just 0.23 seconds.
“Next Olympics I go to, I’m sure as heck not getting fifth,” said Shiffrin, who will start as the favorite in the slalom on Friday.
The 30-year-old Maze added giant slalom gold in the rain to the tie for victory in a sunbathed downhill last week. She also won giant slalom silver at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
Maze led the first run by 0.52 seconds. Jessica Lindell-Vikarby of Sweden had been in second place, but she faded down to place seventh.
Maze began the second run with a 0.85-second advantage over Fenninger, the super-G winner, but gave much of it away in a cautious run down the steep and slushy final slope.
“Not easy day, as we see the weather is playing (games), but I love it when it’s working out fine,” Maze said. “I don’t care if it’s raining, if it’s sunny or whatever. The slope was really good and it was possible to ski well.”
After Maze crossed the line, a further 44 lower-ranked skiers still had their second run. They included pop-classical violinist Vanessa-Mae, who raced for Thailand as Vanessa Vanakorn. She was the slowest of 74 first-run finishers, then slowest again in the afternoon by more than seven seconds.
She ended up 50.10 seconds behind Maze.
One absentee in the original 90-racer lineup was Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany, who skipped her weakest event because of a cold and breathing problems.
Hoefl-Riesch, the super-combined champion and super-G silver medalist, went to the course to warm up Tuesday but chose not to race. She is expected to defend her slalom title on Friday and challenge for a record-equaling fourth career Olympic gold in women’s Alpine skiing.
Julia Mancuso, GS champion at the 2006 Turin Olympics, skied out midway down the last slope in her final event.
“That’s a wrap for me here in Sochi. It’s been inspiring! Thanks for all the support and Love! #GoUSA!!! Now I get to celebrate my Bronze!!!,” Mancuso, who got her medal in super-combined, wrote on her Twitter account.
Maze has been the most consistent women’s skier at the Sochi Games. Mancuso edged her off the super-combined podium by just 0.10 seconds and she was fifth in super-G.
Her victory Tuesday recaptured her standout form in GS last season when she had top-three finishes in all 10 races, including a silver medal at the world championships.
Maze’s joyous celebration reflected how the tension in her skiing has lifted at the Olympics. In an often-frustrating season, she has won only one World Cup race while struggling to follow her record-setting 2013 season.
Rebensburg matched her best result since the opening race of a season in which she was sidelined for several weeks by bronchitis. She glided through the finish area on just her right ski, pumping both fists after seeing her time.
Driving snow and sleet delayed the second run for nearly 15 minutes from its scheduled 1 p.m. (0900 GMT) start, but it slowed to a drizzle when the medal contenders raced.
Course workers scattered salt to firm the snow surface, which was already softened by days of sunshine.
The first run was completed in the morning despite persistent rain on lower sections and the first snowfall at the Sochi Olympics higher up.
Racers struggled to carve clean turns as their skis pushed the soft snow aside.
“It’s like skiing on sugar,” sixth-place finisher Maria Pietilae-Holmner of Sweden said after the first run. “It’s hard to ski the way you want to ski.”