Tina Maze

Tina Maze bids farewell in bizarre fashion; Mikaela Shiffrin misses podium

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Olympic champion Tina Maze sounded like she might keep racing on Thursday, but what transpired Saturday certainly looked like a farewell.

Maze stopped twice during a World Cup giant slalom run in her native Slovenia.

First, she halted to hug her coaches midway down the Maribor course.

Then, she screeched inches before the end, took off her skis and lifted them in the air as she twirled across the finish line on foot. She also tossed her goggles into the adoring crowd.

Maze would have finished nearly 30 seconds behind first-run leader Mikaela Shiffrin, but she was given a DNF, which could mark the end of her storied career. Unless Maze changes her mind, as she teased two days earlier.

Shiffrin ended up fourth after two runs, despite having the fastest first run by .07. The youngest Olympic slalom champion fell behind French winner Tessa Worley, Italian Sofia Goggia and Swiss rival Lara Gut after a slower second run.

“I’m still learning,” Shiffrin said, “so, all in all, it’s not a terrible day.”

RESULTS | RUN 2 REPLAY

Shiffrin had won two giant slaloms in Semmering, Austria, last week and was looking to cushion her World Cup overall lead over Gut.

Instead, Gut gained 10 points on Shiffrin, moving 205 points back after 17 of a scheduled 37 races. Shiffrin is ahead in part because the first half of the season includes more technical races — her favorite slaloms and giant slaloms — than speed races of downhill and super-G.

If Shiffrin and Gut repeat their average results for each discipline for the final 20 races, Gut will take the overall title by about seven points.

Shiffrin, 21, has downplayed talk of going for the overall title this season — she even skipped speed races in December — but she could become the third U.S. woman to take the biggest annual crown in ski racing (Tamara McKinneyLindsey Vonn).

Finally on Saturday, a rarity. Sabrina Simader became the first Kenyan to compete in a World Cup race.

Simader, an 18-year-old who reportedly moved to Austria at age 3, was last of the 61 finishers in the first run, 8.14 seconds behind Shiffrin, and didn’t qualify for the second run.

The women race a slalom in Maribor on Sunday.

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Tina Maze ponders 2018 Olympics

Tina Maze
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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.

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Tina Maze to retire from Alpine skiing after farewell race

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SOELDEN, Austria (AP) — The skier best known for crushing the overall World Cup points record and celebrating her victories with a cartwheeling handspring, announced her retirement.

Two-time Olympic champion Tina Maze of Slovenia said on Thursday she will quit the sport after competing in one more race, a World Cup giant slalom on home soil in Maribor on Jan. 7.

“I am really happy with what I’ve achieved. I don’t feel the need to compete at such a high level anymore,” Maze said.

The Slovenian started her World Cup career with a GS in Maribor, as a 15-year-old in 1999.

A few weeks after winning two gold medals at the 2015 World Championships in Vail and Beaver Creek, Colorado, Maze was beaten for the overall title by Anna Veith, then competing under her maiden name, Fenninger. Maze took a year off from the slopes and got her degree in elementary education.

The move prompted year-long speculation about her career, but Maze always kept all options open until announcing her decision two days before the World Cup season-opener on the Rettenbach glacier in Soelden on Saturday (4 a.m. and 7 a.m. ET, live on NBC Sports app, and 3 p.m. ET, Universal HD).

“I was always thinking about it,” Maze said. “I have a big motivation to compete one last time in front of my home crowd.”

Maribor will be her last World Cup, but Maze did not rule out defending her world downhill title in St. Moritz in February.

“Now I live by the day,” Maze said, adding she will decide about a start in Switzerland in the weeks leading up to the championships. As the defending champion, she wouldn’t have to qualify.

Maze’s rise to the top started in 2008 when she set up her own independent team, led by her Italian coach and boyfriend, Andrea Massi. They called it the Team to aMaze.

Maze won her first of 13 medals at major championships the following year, taking GS silver at the worlds in Val d’Isere, France. She added two more silver medals at the Vancouver Olympics the next year.

Finishing fourth in the 2010 overall World Cup standings, Maze improved one spot each year and finally won the big crystal globe to cap a record-breaking season in 2013.

Maze won 11 races that season, took the GS and super-G titles, and broke the overall World Cup points record in a single season. She beat the previous mark of 2,000, set by Austrian great Hermann Maier in 2000, by another 414 points.

The same season, Maze also became only the sixth female skier to win events in all five Alpine disciplines, with American standout Lindsey Vonn the only other active achiever.

Her World Cup results faded in the following season, but Maze went back to the top when she won Slovenia’s first ever gold medal at the Winter Olympics by sharing victory in the Sochi downhill with Dominique Gisin of Switzerland.

“At the moment it is not easy for me,” Massi said, adding he was particularly proud of his girlfriend reaching the top of her sport without doping.

“Tina is the best proof to young athletes that you can become the best on normal food: Schnitzels, pasta, vegetables, and goulash soup.”

Known as a gritty competitor who doesn’t try to hide her mood after not winning a race, Maze once said she becomes “completely inaccessible” when things are not going her way.

“That is just who I am. I certainly do not want to be rude,” said Maze, who in 2012 displayed her singing talent by entering the charts in her home country.

The song was fittingly named, “My way is my decision.”

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