So what if she struggled for race after race on the World Cup circuit, unable to duplicate her record-setting season of a year ago? So what if things grew so dire that she felt compelled to hire a new coach in January?
“This season’s plan,” Maze insisted Tuesday, “was to show my best here.”
Well, if so, it worked. Dealing with the wild weather better than anyone – the thick snowflakes at the top of the hill, the rain in the middle, the sleet at the bottom – Maze turned in a fantastic opening leg and a sufficient second run to win the giant slalom for her second gold medal of the Sochi Games, after last week’s downhill.
The Slovenian skier is the first woman since Marie-Theres Nadig, of Switzerland, at the 1972 Sapporo Games with enough versatility to master the downhill’s test of pure speed and the giant slalom’s more technical turns at the same Olympics.
“I’m trying,” Maze said, “to be the best.”
She certainly was that during the 2012-13 World Cup season, winning 11 races en route to the overall title and a record point total. This season, though, Maze was hardly herself for months at a time, failing to earn a victory until her 22nd race, a downhill in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, on Jan. 25.
On Tuesday, her first run gave Maze a lead of nearly a half-second, and so she was the last of the top 30 skiers to go in the second session.
Her two-leg time of 2 minutes, 36.87 seconds edged super-G gold medalist Anna Fenninger, of Austria, by 0.07 seconds. Defending champion Viktoria Rebensburg, of Germany, got the bronze, 0.27 slower than Maze.
HOCKEY: Slovenia added another chapter to its feel-good story.
The Slovenes beat Austria 4-0 on Tuesday in the men’s qualification round, earning a spot among the final eight teams at the Sochi Games.
Russia managed to stay at the party it is playing host to by beating Norway 4-0 after a slow start.
The Czech Republic held off rival Slovakia with a 5-3 win. The Czechs will face the United States at noon today.
SPEEDSKATING: Jorrit Bergsma set an Olympic record and led another Dutch speedskating sweep, winning the 10,000 meters with an upset of countryman Sven Kramer. Kramer settled for silver in 12:49.02. The bronze went to 37-year-old Bob de Jong.
BIATHLON: Emil Hegle Svendsen, of Norway, edged Martin Fourcade, of France, in a sprint finish to win gold in the men’s 15-kilometer mass start.
Svendsen and Fourcade both finished in 42 minutes, 29.1 seconds, with Svendsen’s ski crossing the line a fraction earlier.
Ondrej Moravec, of Czech Republic, was 13.8 behind to take bronze.
SHORT TRACK: South Korea won the 3,000-meter relay, passing China on the last lap to take the lead. Italy took the bronze, giving Arianna Fontana her third medal in Sochi.
NORDIC COMBINED: Norway’s Joergen Graabak broke away from a five-man group with about 100 meters left in the cross-country race, finishing six-tenths of a second ahead of teammate Magnus Moan. Fabian Riessle, of Germany, won the bronze.
CURLING: Britain reached the semifinals in men’s curling by beating Norway 6-5 in a tiebreaker.
DETAINED: Russian punk group Pussy Riot burst onto the scene Tuesday when two of its members were picked up by police in Sochi – and then ran away defiant down a rain-soaked street a few hours later, shouting and wearing their trademark garish balaclavas.
The police questioning of Russia’s most recognizable punk rockers, along with detentions of gay rights and other activists in recent days, brought political tensions to the fore.
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina, along with seven others, were held by police. Police said they were questioned in connection with a theft at the hotel where they were staying. No charges were filed.