Maze sweeps through rain to win giant slalom
Slovenia's Tina Maze likes cutting it fine.
Days after being involved in an unprecedented tie for first place in the downhill she claimed her second gold at the Sochi Olympics, winning the giant slalom by the violin-string margin of 0.07 seconds.
After leading by half a second after the first run, a sizeable gap in ski racing terms, the 30-year-old leaked time on her second descent as thick snow poured from slate-grey clouds.
She held on just long enough to edge Austria's Anna Fenninger into second place with German Viktoria Rebensburg, the champion in Vancouver, taking bronze.
Violin virtuso Vanessa Mae added glamour on her much-hyped Olympic bow, admirably finishing both legs to come 67th and last, 50 seconds slower than Maze.
Maze has dabbled in pop music and had a hit in the Slovenian charts but, if Tuesday proved anything, it is that both she and Mae should stick to their day jobs.
But for a tenth of a second in the super combined, in which she was fourth, and another 10th in the super-G, where she was fifth, Maze could have gone into Friday's slalom looking for her fifth medal of the Games.
She is happy enough with two golds, however.
"My season plan was to show my best here and I didn't have the right motivation in the season," Maze, wearing a pair of her own design earrings in the shape of snowflakes, told reporters.
"I had the passion here at the Olympics. I knew I had to come here in my best shape.
"I'm so proud, it's what I came here to do. I think I will realise what I've done years later. Right now it's just go with the flow and not get too emotional."
Four years ago Maze was beaten to giant slalom gold by 0.04 seconds by Rebensburg. She was also finished one step from the top of the podium in super-G in Vancouver so it is about time the clock favoured her.
"I came here with five chances to win a medal...I missed combined and super-G by hundredths. But I knew it would turn my way today or tomorrow, life is like that," she said.
Rebensburg was only sixth fastest in the first run completed in steady drizzle, nearly one and a half seconds down on Maze and behind American teenager Mikaela Shiffrin.
However, when she carved through the murk to set the quickest second-run time it looked as though an unlikely repeat of her Vancouver gold was on.
Shiffrin could not beat her, but super-G champion Fenninger did. Maze was then ice-cool as she picked her way through the 54 gates to snatch her and Slovenia's second gold of the Games.
Rebensburg said she was just pleased to be on the podium after missing two months of the season because of pneumonia. "This bronze means as much as the gold did in Vancouver," said the 24-year-old.
Fenninger took a while to get going at the Games, falling in the super combined and struggling in downhill, but came good to pocket gold and silver.
"I just can't believe that I got a second medal, it's so cool and I'm so stoked about my second run," Fenninger said.
The giant slalom start list numbered nearly 100 skiers, swelled by the "exotics" who traditionally get the chance to savour the Olympics in the event least likely to cause harm.
Mae, representing Thailand, provided a cameo role with two careful runs completed at rather "waltz-like" pace.
"The Olympics is like the greatest show on earth and to just share the same snow, to be able to slide down the same snow that the elite skiers carve down is just an honour and a privilege," the Swiss-based 35-year-old told reporters.
"But a lot of them are hobby musicians and I'm a hobby skier."
Slow she may have been, but at least she can say she did better than a former Olympic giant slalom champion after American Julia Mancuso skied out in her first run.