Tina Maze
Getty Images

Tina Maze ponders 2018 Olympics

Leave a comment

ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) — For all the fuss in Tina Maze‘s home country about her farewell ski race on Saturday, it might not be her last race after all.

The two-time Olympic champion from Slovenia told The Associated Press on Thursday that she might reconsider her decision to retire.

“Of course, in human nature, there is always mind-changing,” the 33-year-old Maze said in Croatia where she attended a men’s World Cup race. “You can always change your mind. My body is not capable of 10 more years of skiing, but maybe two.”

After taking the full 2015-16 season off, Maze announced in October that she planned to quit the sport after competing in one final race, the giant slalom in her home country on Saturday. Maribor was also the venue of her World Cup debut at 15 in 1999.

After her year off, Maze said she felt she was forced into taking a decision about her future.

“Everybody was expecting my decision this year so I had to make a press conference and decide,” said Maze, who in 2014 won Slovenia’s first ever gold medal at the Winter Olympics by sharing victory in the Sochi downhill with Dominique Gisin of Switzerland. Six days later she also won gold in GS.

With the Pyeongchang Olympics in South Korea looming next year, Maze said she could be tempted to extend her career.

“It depends on all the other circumstances, it’s not depending just on me,” the four-time Olympian said without elaborating.

Asked by the AP about Maze’s thoughts on racing again, her Italian coach and boyfriend, Andrea Massi, said, “I support Tina. I don’t push her in one direction, this is Tina’s decision.”

Massi started working with Maze as a fitness coach in 2002. Six years later, they set up their own independent team, calling it the Team to aMaze.

“I have pushed Tina as a coach for 14 years, the last eight years as her chief trainer,” Massi said. “She has to be free (to decide) after 14 years.”

Several incidents have cast a shadow over Maze’s farewell race. Her start was in doubt following a sponsorship row with the Slovenian ski federation last month.

As the federation was not willing to pay her an appearance fee, both parties agreed she will wear a race suit without sponsor logos.

Also, Maze unsuccessfully tried to get injury status for the year she didn’t ski. That would have protected her ranking and allowed her a favorable start position in the top 15. Now she will have to start after the top 30 racers.

“Of course I am disappointed because I had some health problems which are not so easy,” Maze said. “I thought I would get an injury status and be able to start in the top 15. It’s not fair. It does matter for my principles and for what I believe in, and for what I thought was right. That’s for sure not right but it won’t stop me.”

Maze said she has had limited training ahead of her first race since March 2015.

“Just to ski a little bit in order not to come from zero to Maribor,” she said. “I just want to have fun, to enjoy it, to feel the same atmosphere that I feel here (in Zagreb).”

Maze, who set the record for most World Cup points in a single season as she won the overall title in 2013, has 26 World Cup victories, 81 podium results, and four world titles.

MORE: Vonn, Mancuso could return next week

Alina Zagitova hands Yevgenia Medvedeva first loss in 2 years

Getty Images
1 Comment

Russian Yevgenia Medvedeva is no longer the clear favorite in the Winter Olympics’ marquee event.

The two-time world champion lost for the first time in more than two years, upset by training partner Alina Zagitova at the European Figure Skating Championships in Moscow.

Italian Carolina Kostner earned bronze.

Zagitova, the 15-year-old world junior champion, set personal bests in the short program and free skate and totaled 238.24 points. She beat Medvedeva by 5.38 points.

Medvedeva, in her first competition since November due to a broken foot, fully rotated all of her jumps Saturday, but Zagitova was cleaner. She also stumbled out of a double Axel in her short program.

“I did not feel the injury,” Medvedeva said after the short program, according to the International Skating Union. “Everything has healed.”

Full results are here. NBCSN will air coverage Saturday at 9 p.m. ET.

Zagitova was born three months after the Salt Lake City Olympics and without a name for her first year. Her parents eventually decided on Alina after watching Olympic rhythmic gymnastics champion Alina Kabayeva on TV.

She had been working to this point in her first senior international season. She swept her two fall Grand Prix starts, then won the Grand Prix Final in December, all without Medvedeva in the field.

On Saturday, she landed all of her jumps (including seven triples) in the second half of her program for 10 percent bonuses. It’s the type of technical content layout ambitious enough to challenge Medvedeva.

“I think that Zhenia [Medvedeva] is her role model in life, in behavior, in her way to work,” shared coach Eteri Tutberidze said last year, according to Goldenskate.com. “Alina absolutely tries to copy her way to work, the amount of work and she doesn’t stop. This helps. I can sometimes show Zhenia and say, ‘Look how Alina is working,’ and I tell Alina, ‘Look how Zhenia is working.’”

Medvedeva, whose last defeat was in November 2015, also won both of her Grand Prix starts, posting the world’s highest scores this season, while dealing with foot pain.

She underwent an MRI that revealed a crack, then withdrew from the Grand Prix Final and the Russian Championships in December. She is still expected to be on the Olympic Athlete from Russia team in PyeongChang.

Kostner, the 2014 Olympic bronze medalist who made her Europeans debut in 2003, fell on her opening triple Lutz and landed just three triple jumps Saturday.

She hung on to win a medal at her 11th straight European Championships.

Russian Maria Sotskova, the Grand Prix Final silver medalist, fell on her last triple jump, a Lutz, among other landing troubles. She placed fourth.

Those four skaters are the Olympic medal contenders along with Canadians Kaetlyn Osmond and Gabrielle Daleman and Japanese Satoko Miyahara and Kaori Sakamoto.

U.S. champion Bradie Tennell ranks 14th in the world this season.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: NBC Olympics PyeongChang preview series on Netflix

Julia Marino, Hailey Langland qualify for Olympics; U.S. sweeps possible

Leave a comment

The addition of snowboard big air to the Olympics next month means Jamie AndersonJulia Marino and Hailey Langland have two chances for a U.S. podium sweep in PyeongChang.

Marino and Langland qualified for the U.S. big air and slopestyle team Saturday, joining the already qualified Anderson, who won slopestyle’s debut in Sochi.

Anderson, Marino and Langland swept the podium in that order at the last Olympic qualifier in slopestyle in Mammoth Mountain, Calif.

They also made up three of the top four riders at the 2017 X Games big air and slopestyle.

The U.S. has never swept the Winter Olympic medals in a women’s event but could do so in big air, slopestyle and even snowboard halfpipe in PyeongChang.

MORE: U.S. Olympic roster

While Anderson is the veteran, an X Games medalist 11 of the last 12 years, Marino and Langland represent the new wave of U.S. big air and slopestyle riders.

Marino, a 20-year-old from Connecticut who trains in Quebec, earned slopestyle and big air medals at X Games Aspen and Oslo last year in her debuts at those events.

They included slopestyle gold in Aspen over Anderson.

Langland, a 17-year-old from Southern California who plays the ukulele, guitar and piano, won the first X Games women’s big air title last year and took bronze in slopestyle in 2016.

Born in 2000, she is younger than any previous female Olympic snowboarding medalist.

“She reminds me of a younger me,” Anderson said, according to NBC Olympic Research.

The U.S. could add a fourth woman to the big air/slopestyle team, likely either Jessika Jenson or Ty Walker, a pair of 2014 Olympians in slopestyle.

The U.S. men are not as strong internationally in big air and slopestyle, where the Olympic favorites hail from Canada and Norway.

Kyle Mack won the last qualifier Saturday — without the top international riders in the field — to clinch the third and last automatic spot on the men’s big air/slopestyle team.

Chris Corning and Red Gerard previously qualified for PyeongChang. A fourth rider can be added via discretionary selection.

U.S. Olympic Qualifying Standings
Snowboard Big Air/Slopestyle 
(through five of five events)
Three riders auto qualify per gender; one possible discretionary spot
1. Chris Corning — 2,000* QUALIFIED
1. Red Gerard — 2,000* QUALIFIED
3. Kyle Mack — 1,800* QUALIFIED

4. Chandler Hunt — 1,400* (2nd and 3rd)
5. Ryan Stassel — 1,400 (2nd and 3rd)

1. Jamie Anderson — 2,000* QUALIFIED
2. Julia Marino — 1,800* QUALIFIED
3. Hailey Langland — 1,600* QUALIFIED
4. Jessika Jenson — 1,600 (1st and 3rd)
5. Ty Walker — 1,300 (2nd and 4th)
*Has automatic qualifying minimum of one top-three result against entire field.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

VIDEO: Shaun White scores perfect 100 to qualify for Olympics