Created on Saturday, 26 January 2013 Written by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
MARIBOR, Slovenia (AP) — Lindsey Vonn showed she can beat Tina Maze in the Slovenian's best discipline and on her home snow.
While it may be too late to challenge her biggest rival for the overall World Cup title, Vonn is looking like Maze's biggest challenger at next month's world championships.
The American proved that she has fully recovered from a recent illness by winning a World Cup giant slalom, her second win in two weeks.
Vonn was third behind Maze after the first run but overcame several errors in the second to put down the fastest time and create a margin that Maze couldn't overcome. Vonn won in 2 minutes, 22.2 seconds for her first GS victory since last March.
"In the second run I decided, OK, it's all or nothing, I had to go for it," Vonn said. "It's been a rough year for me in GS, so it's just perfect."
Maze still clinched her third giant slalom discipline title by placing second. Maze had a near-perfect first run, but a poor start to the second cost her valuable time and she finished 0.08 seconds behind Vonn.
With her 59th World Cup win overall, Vonn's just three away from equaling Annemarie Moser Proell's record on the women's side. She earned her first GS victory since last March and back-to-back wins after taking the downhill last week at Cortina D'Ampezzo.
Vonn took nearly a month off over the holidays to recover from an intestinal illness that landed her in the hospital in November. While her break allowed Maze to build an even bigger lead in the overall standings, Vonn said it's clear she made the right decision.
"A couple of weeks ago, everyone was thinking I was crazy taking this time off," Vonn said. "But I felt my body wasn't ready. Now I am ready."
Austria's Anna Fenninger was third, 0.57 seconds behind Vonn.
Maze's closest rival in the GS, Kathrin Zettel, only managed sixth. Maze is 238 points ahead of Zettel with just two GS races remaining this season.
Maze also extended her lead in the overall standing to 748 points against her closest challenger, Germany's Maria Hoefl-Riesch, who finished fourth. Vonn stands another 66 points back in third, having missed several races while sidelined.
The 29-year-old Maze performed in front of a passionate home crowd and was 0.48 seconds ahead of Vonn after dominating the first run.
However, she ran wide at the start of the second, leaving her 0.13 seconds behind her rival at the first checkpoint. Despite the cheers of the fans urging her on, Maze couldn't make up the time and finished with tears in her eyes.
"I had a mistake in the flat part," Maze said. "In my final run, I just had too many mistakes but I am very satisfied with second."
Maze has won four of the seven giant slaloms this season, making the podium in the other three.
"I have been working so hard this year for this GS crystal globe," she said. "Now I've won it, I feel freed and can look forward."
While the overall World Cup title may be Maze's to win or lose, Vonn will be a favorite to dominate next month's world championships in Schladming, Austria.