KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia: This, Tina Maze can say now, was what she had in mind all along: An Olympic performance that hadn’t been seen in 42 years.
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 last month?
“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 to be the best,” Maze said.
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. That was a couple of weeks after she installed a new coach, a change her boyfriend, Andrea Massi, called “a difficult decision.”
As for the dip in form up until now, Massi said: “Maybe she was just keeping it in her pocket for the Olympics.”
On Tuesday, her first run — when she was the first racer down the hill, a big advantage on soft snow — gave her 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.
Mikaela Shiffrin, the 18-year-old American who will be favored in Friday’s slalom, was fifth in the giant slalom, her Olympic debut, a half-second off the pace.
“I wanted a gold, but ... I think this was meant to happen,” Shiffrin said. “And it’s something I’m going to learn from. Next Olympics I go to, I’m sure as heck not getting fifth.”
At the Olympic Park, the Russian hockey team looked plenty vulnerable in its opening hockey game in the elimination round, defeating Norway 4-0 in a game that — despite the scoreline — was anything but a rout. Russia is playing under immense pressure in Sochi. It did not look strong in the preliminary round, and that was the case against Norway, which hasn’t won an Olympic hockey game since its home Lillehammer Games in 1994. The game was scoreless after one period and 2-0 after two. Russia got two goals from Alexander Radulov and advanced to the quarterfinals against Finland today. Latvia, the Czech Republic and Slovenia also advanced to the quarterfinals.
The podium has become a second home for the Dutch, with the walls painted orange. Jorrit Bergsma set an Olympic record with his time of 12 minutes, 44.45 seconds in the men’s 10,000 meters. He was followed by Sven Kramer and Bob de Jong, sending the Dutch to their fourth podium sweep at this venue and giving them a total of 19 speedskating medals. Kramer had to settle for silver after botching certain victory in this race in Vancouver four years ago with a baffling mistake in a lane change.
Emil Hegle Svendsen of Norway edged Martin Fourcade of France to win gold in the men’s 15-kilometer mass start biathlon. They both finished in 42 minutes, 29.1 seconds, with Svendsen’s ski crossing the line a fraction ahead. This was Svendsen’s fourth career Olympic medal but first in Sochi. Ondrej Moravec of Czech Republic won bronze for his second medal of the games.
Pierre Vaultier of France held off Nikolay Olyunin of Russia to win the gold medal in men’s snowboardcross on a chopped-up course slowed by drizzle. Alex Deibold of the U.S., a wax technician for the Americans in Vancouver four years ago, took the bronze. Italy’s Omar Visintin was removed by a stretcher after crashing in the semifinals. The event was pushed back a day because of heavy fog.
South Korea won the 3,000-meter relay, passing China on the last lap to take the lead. Four years ago in Vancouver, the South Koreans finished first, but were disqualified and China got the gold. Italy took the bronze, giving Arianna Fontana her third medal in Sochi.
Norway delivered a one-two finish in the Nordic combined large hill. 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 Magnus Moan. Fabian Riessle of Germany won the bronze.
Lauryn Williams and Elana Meyers in USA-1 lead at the halfway point of the bobsled. Williams, a two-time medalist in track at the Summer Games, and Meyers made two trips down the Sanki Sliding Center track in 1 minute, 54.89 seconds to open a 0.23-second lead over Canada’s Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse. USA-2’s Jamie Greubel and Aja Evans are in third. American track star Lolo Jones is in 11th with teammate Jazmine Fenlator in USA-3.
Britain reached the semifinals in men’s curling by beating Norway 6-5 in a tiebreaker. The game came down to the final shot, and British skip David Murdoch delivered. The British will face Sweden in the semifinals today while Canada plays China.