An elated Tina Maze celebrated her giant slalom win with a giant cartwheel on Saturday, following two dominant runs from the Slovenian on the Aspen Mountain course during World Cup racing.
Maze, 29, finished .9 seconds ahead of runner-up Kathrin Zettel of Austria and 1.54 seconds faster than third-place finisher Viktoria Rebensburg of Germany. Maze also won the giant slalom race in Solden, Austria, last month. Saturday’s victory marked her first podium finish in Aspen.
“I am really proud of this,” she said. “I’ve never really skied this well here before.”
She said that during her first run — clocked at 57.76 — she gathered information for the second, which she ran in 1:01.63. Racers freeskied in the morning before the races, but didn’t get to do training runs with gates.
“My key was just to ski like I’m skiing in the training and attack the course and try to be fast,” said Maze, whose post-win cartwheel is becoming a personal signature and who also has a burgeoning music career in her homeland (see related story, page 5).
Racers were universally complimentary of the fast, icy course conditions, which race organizers put together despite below average snowfall in Aspen. As is customary for Aspen’s World Cup races, the sun went behind Shadow Mountain before the second run, creating a challenge with flat light for racers.
“The low light is always really difficult,” said American Julia Mancuso, who finished 15th overall with two aggressive runs. “But it’s the same for everybody. ... There’s so many bumps that you can’t see.”
Rebensburg, Saturday’s third-place finisher and a seven-time podium finisher in Aspen, described the course conditions as “excellent.”
“The only problem is the light in the second run,” she said. “All of a sudden it is very dark. But I had no problem with the course.”
Teen phenomenon and U.S. Ski Team member Mikaela Shiffrin, 17, finished fastest among the Americans, coming in ninth overall Saturday with a combined time of 2:01.73 and picking up 17.44 race points in the season.
Shiffrin took her first top 10 World Cup finish here last year, in the slalom race, which she will return to today.
“It gives me some confidence for both GS and slalom,” Shiffrin said slopeside after her second run, “knowing I can do it in both events. But I just have to keep moving forward. I never want to be satisfied with how I’ve done.”
She sat in second place after her final run, but was nudged back by faster times as she watched from near the bottom of the hill as the rest of the racers finished.
The Vail-based racer said preparing for races in her home state makes her more comfortable than when traveling abroad.
“It’s very special being home,” she said of racing here. “I’m only two hours away from my bed and being that close makes me sleep better.”
U.S. Ski Team members Shiffrin, Mancuso and Lindsey Vonn all picked up race points on Saturday.
Vonn, the four-time overall World Cup champion, is still recuperating from a serious stomach bug that left her hospitalized in Vail last week. She made the cut for the second run, but finished more than three seconds behind the winner Maze and came in 21st overall.
After crossing the finish line, a dejected Vonn mock-collapsed and laid down in the snow, exhausted and feigning sleep. Vonn had said on Friday, when she announced she would race this weekend, that she did not expect a strong finish, as she is still building back the strength she lost while she was sick. Vonn will not compete in today’s slalom race.
Sunday’s slalom races begin at 10 a.m. The second round kicks off at 1 p.m.