February 09, 2015

BEAVER CREEK, Colo. (AP) Tina Maze pulled off an impressive feat on the soft snow - a cartwheel in ski boots. Her racing wasn't too bad, either.

Maze captured gold in the Alpine combined Monday, earning her third medal of the Beaver Creek world championships on a warm afternoon when Lindsey Vonn failed to finish the slalom.

Leading after the downhill portion, the Slovenian standout used a clean slalom run to finish in a combined time of 2 minutes, 33.37 seconds. Nicole Hosp of Austria was second, 0.22 seconds behind, and fellow Austrian Michaela Kirchgasser earned third.

''If I didn't win today I wouldn't have felt good,'' Maze said. ''It was a lot of pressure today. It's not easy to race like that. I was really nervous before the slalom.

''This was a hard win.''

And a difficult day for Vonn, who struggled in the downhill portion, with the icy surface bothering her surgically repaired right knee. Later, in the slalom, she straddled a gate just before the first interval, ending her day.

Vonn was in tears after the race - overwhelmed by the pressure of racing in front of a hometown crowd. She will race in one last event, the giant slalom, on Thursday.

''I'm just really disappointed,'' said Vonn, whose lone medal at worlds so far is a bronze in the super-G. ''I really tried as hard as I could. I came up short. That's disappointing for myself, my family and my fans. I didn't figure out this hill at all.''

Maze certainly is dialed in at Beaver Creek. She adds this gold to the silver she won in the super-G and gold in the downhill last week. She's trying to match Norwegian great Lasse Kjus, who earned medals in all five disciplines at the 1999 worlds in Beaver Creek.

''She's a fantastic skier,'' said Kjus, who flew in from Norway to watch the competition. ''She can do it.''

But fatigue is starting to play a factor. Maze said she's exhausted from all the races and training sessions. She has a few rest days before the giant slalom and slalom on Saturday.

Maze playfully hinted she might skip out on resting and participate in the Nations Team event Tuesday, the only team-style competition at worlds. It's not held in Beaver Creek - the slope she knows so well - but in nearby Vail and could mean quite a bit of extra skiing.

''I'm joking,'' said Maze, who now has nine world medals. ''I will take a break for sure.''

The 31-year-old Maze may be tired, but she still had plenty of energy to celebrate. After seeing her winning time on the scoreboard, she held her left ski pole in the air. Then, she lifted her right one and urged the crowd to stand up in the bleachers. She then clicked out of her skis and did a cartwheel - her signature move after wins.

''Winning is always amazing,'' said Maze, who sang along with her national anthem as she wiped away tears.

By her standards, Maze had what she called a solid downhill, but certainly not one of her best. That made her a little anxious for the slalom, especially running last and the sun baking the snow.

With the snow deteriorating, Maze took a conservative approach through the groove-filed course. Then, near the bottom, she found another gear.

''You had to go for it and I did my best,'' she said.

Hosp and Kirchgasser led a strong showing by the Austrians. The country had four skiers in the top 10, including Anna Fenninger, who finished fourth. Fenninger won the super-G at worlds last week and was second in the downhill. She was third after the morning downhill, but couldn't hold her place.

For Hosp, it's another silver at a big event. She finished second in the event at the 2014 Sochi Games, behind Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany. Hoefl-Riesch was the defending champion at worlds, but didn't defend her title this season after stepping away from skiing.

''I know what I have to do for big events,'' Hosp said. ''I just focus on me, push everything and it works.''

Unlike Maze, Kirchgasser will do the team event. She's been a rock for the Austrians in this event, winning two golds.

This medal meant a lot to her, too.

''I think I did pretty well,'' Kirchgasser said.

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