Off to home snow at Maribor for Slovenian Tina Maze
Special to the Daily
BEAVER CREEK — Tina Maze is not someone you want to cross paths with when she’s having a bad day.
For example, after missing a medal and falling to fifth place in the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships giant slalom race on Thursday, she was all frowns. More like death stares, actually. When asked afterward about how her energy was holding up, she replied “disaster!” before storming off.
She was less hostile after finishing eighth in Saturday’s slalom race, but, by then, she was also completely exhausted, the only racer in these Championships to finish top 10 in all five events.
When she’s having a good day, however, the Slovenian superstar is arguably the funniest, most pleasant skier in the world, doing cartwheels and laughing easily.
Bigger than Worlds?
Walking away from these Champs with three medals, it’s on to the next big thing for the World Cup leader. If you can believe it, the next big thing is possibly bigger even than these World Champs for the Slovenian.
While you’d think somebody like Maze would be off for a quick beach vacation after this event (“I’m dreaming of it now,” the Slovenian said a few days ago, already exhausted by her intensive race and training program), she has to prepare for the coming weekend’s World Cup race on her home turf, in Maribor, Slovenia.
In a country whose population tops out around 2 million, Maze — the most successful athlete, man or woman in any sport, in Slovenian history — is a big deal.
Thousands of Slovenians pour into the nation’s second largest city every year to see their star in action. Those races kick off on Saturday, meaning Maze will barely have time to rest before she’s back on course.
“The one thing that’s making me happy is it’s 200-meter altitude so I’ll breathe better there, even though it will be jet lag and all that stuff,” Maze said after Saturday’s race. “The biggest problem I had today was breathing. I kind of panicked when I came down.”
Racing independently from the Slovenian national team, besides being the oldest female gold medalist in the history of the Championships, the 31-year-old has four Olympic medals — two silver and two gold — and a total of nine World Championships medals, four gold and five silver. She is leading this season’s World Cup overall standings and two years ago, she racked up 2,414 points to win the overall globe, more than double the points of anyone else and more than any one skier has ever earned in one season.
Oh yes, she’s also a pop star, singing and playing piano in the song “My Way is My Decision” that has had more views on YouTube than that of any other Slovenian artist (warning, the video is a little cheesy, especially after an appearance by Maze’s long-time coach/boyfriend and also a chocolate bar appearance/plug for sponsor Milka).
‘My best World Championships’
Speaking in a flat monotone, Maze is proficient in Slovenian, Italian, German and English and has a deadpan sense of humor that she occasionally displays at such times as when her underwear was put into question on the World Cup a few seasons ago. The Swiss Federation accused Maze of wearing underwear made of a plastic material that gave her an aerodynamic advantage. The Slovenian had to turn in said underwear for scrutiny by the International Ski Federation and at the following race, when standing in the leader’s box, Maze opened the top of her race suit to reveal the message “not your business” written on her sports bra.
During her time at Vail-Beaver Creek, Maze expressed her love of Colorado, that is, besides the altitude, which she said had totally zapped her energy by the time her last race wrapped up.
Although she wanted to find one last medal on Saturday, Maze sums up the past two weeks as “my best World Championships.”
“I’m happy with three medals. I’m really proud,” she said. “Finishing like that, of course it’s tough. I felt really on the limit today. It’s hard to handle if you’re doing all of the program and warm up … you need to be careful not to burn yourself out.”
Burnt out or not, Maze is always one to graciously acknowledge the prowess of other athletes.
“The best are on the podium,” she said after the race Saturday. “Mikaela (Shiffrin) showed again that she’s the best slalom skier at the moment. Frida (Hansdotter) as well. I’m happy for Sarka (Strachova) to be there, it’s amazing after all of her health problems. I know I belong there, too, but with this kind of energy … I don’t belong there. But I think it was a nice race.”