February 20, 2015

MARIBOR, Slovenia (AP) After sharing four gold medals between them at this month's world championships, Tina Maze and Anna Fenninger continue their rivalry on the women's alpine World Cup, starting with a giant slalom on Saturday.

The pair has 13 races left to battle it out for the season's overall title, with the Slovenian, who eyes a repeat of her 2013 triumph, enjoying a 184-point lead over the defending champion from Austria.

It's hard to see past Maze and Fenninger, as Americans Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin are 339 and 380 points behind in third and fourth, respectively.

Maze, who recently hinted at retirement, is the only skier this season to compete in all five disciplines, making her position atop the standings even stronger.

Dealing with the toughest schedule of all, Maze has complained about fatigue several times, and she seemed to have run out of energy after her outstanding opening week of the worlds when she won gold in downhill and combined, and silver in super-G.

Fenninger, who hasn't raced a slalom since 2011, isn't considering starting in her weakest discipline just to boost her chances.

''It's better to be in front in your strongest events than doing a moderate slalom,'' Austria head coach Jurgen Kriechbaum said, adding he still believed the fight would remain undecided until the season-ending weekend in March.

''The momentum is with Maze as she is leading and has three slaloms additionally,'' Kriechbaum said. ''But St. Moritz has shown how quickly things can change.''

In two speed races in the Swiss resort a week before the worlds, Fenninger reduced her then 331-point deficit by 147.

A year ago, the Austrian bounced back from an even bigger deficit to take the title. Returning from the Sochi Olympics, Fenninger trailed Maria Hoefl-Riesch by 208 points but led the German by 191 in the final standings.

Fenninger, however, hardly believed she might be able to repeat that feat.

In an interview with a regional newspaper in Austria, she deemed her chances of defending the overall title as ''not realistic,'' adding she would rather focus on winning the discipline titles in GS and super-G.

Both Maze and Fenninger excel in GS. From the Slovenian's 26 career wins, 14 came in that discipline. And the Austrian, an eight-time winner, took the world title in dominating style last week to add to her super-G gold.

The fight for the crystal globe for the season's best GS skier is still wide open.

With three races left, leader Eva-Maria Brem of Austria and Maze in fifth are separated by just 75 points, and by Fenninger, Shiffrin and Sweden's Sara Hector.

Not in the hunt for the discipline title, four-time overall champion Vonn still plans her return to World Cup GS skiing Saturday.

After placing 14th at the worlds last week, the American will compete in her first World Cup event since January 2013, when she won in Maribor just 10 days before damaging her right knee in a crash at the worlds in Schladming, Austria.

''I need to get some good training in,'' Vonn was quoted on the website of one of her sponsors. ''Hopefully I can get my confidence back up in that event. I'm looking forward to finishing the season strong.''

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