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.”
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 McKinney, Lindsey 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.Follow @nzaccardi