Tina Maze wins super-combi, clinches first World Cup overall title
MERIBEL, France (AP) -- Tina Maze of Slovenia clinched her first overall World Cup title Sunday, winning the super-combined for her eighth victory this season with nine races still to go.
Maze led the downhill section and coasted home in the slalom after Maria Hoefl-Riesch crashed out of contention. She also tied a season record with her 18th top-three finish, matching the podium mark set by Pernilla Wiberg of Sweden and Hanni Wenzel of Liechtenstein.
"I'm an emotional person; I didn't want to cry (on the podium)," Maze said, adding she felt sick before the slalom. "I went to the toilet six times before I started."
Maze already has 1,844 points and is all but certain to smash the season record - men or women - of 2,000 held by Austrian great Hermann Maier.
"It's really special because it's so difficult to win. For me it's special to continue this level of skiing," Maze said. "To be on the top is amazing. It's a great season for me. Even if there have been ups and downs I have always come back."
Barring injury, Maze is likely to break the men's and women's points record and seal her place in skiing history with the women's season record for podiums.
She is also seeking to become only the third woman to win all five discipline races in one season and needs only a downhill win to do so. She had a chance Saturday, but finished fourth, and now has two downhills remaining, starting next week in the German resort of Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
Hoefl-Riesch is second in the overall standings but is 958 points behind and has no chance of closing the gap. Each victory is worth 100 points.
Lindsey Vonn, the four-time overall winner and defending champion, fell out of contention after she took a monthlong break because of an intestinal illness and then was done for the season after a knee injury at the world championships. Vonn is still third overall with 740 points.
"I'm really tired now, especially after a long day like today," the 29-year-old Maze said. "Today was so tough, I didn't know where I was. I almost went off the course twice. But I just managed to catch the gates. It's crazy."
Nicole Hosp of Austria, the world championship bronze medalist in super-combi, finished second, while countrywoman Michaela Kirchgasser took third with a superb slalom run.
Maze is also in contention to win all five discipline titles.
"My target is to be focused until the end of the season because there are many small globes that are open and possible to get," she said. "I want to keep this level of skiing until the end. I don't want to go down; I want to keep it at the high level."
Hosp, the World Cup winner in 2007, lauded Maze's consistency.
"There are no words to describe Tina's amazing season," she said.
Julia Mancuso went close to clinching the fourth super-combi podium of her career and her first in six years. But the American made a small mistake midway through, falling forward on her skis.
Maze is trying to become the first woman to break the 2,000-point barrier. She can smash Vonn's mark of 1,980 from last season and surpass Maier men's record of 2,000 in 1999-00.
"It has been an extraordinary season for Tina," Kirchgasser said. "To be so far ahead in the points. Last time it was a man who won with more than 2,000 points and I don't think Tina will be far off."
Maze's phenomenal season also includes three gold medals from the worlds in Schladming, Austria - gold in super-G and silver in super-combi and giant slalom. She lost out on a second gold to Hoefl-Riesch and felt Sunday's win somewhat made up for that.
"I had that in mind because in Schladming I didn't do a good slalom," she said. "I didn't risk a lot and today I did different. So at the end it's a revenge, too, but the priority was better skiing from my side.
"It's a good slope, I had some troubles yesterday in downhill," Maze said. "I had some trouble on the top. But the rest of the hill is like a dream."