ASPEN, Colo. (AP) — Completely exhausted, Lindsey Vonn collapsed to the snow soon after crossing the finish line.
Totally elated, Tina Maze performed a cartwheel right after her first win in America.
Once Vonn gets healthy again, this could be quite a rivalry. After all, Vonn has what Maze covets most — the overall World Cup crown. Not that Maze's even thinking that far ahead.
"The season is long. You need to keep your skiing on a high level for three months," the Slovenian standout said.
Her stamina drained, Vonn simply couldn't make up ground on Maze in a giant slalom race Saturday. Vonn finished 21st in her return after missing time with an intestinal illness.
Then again, given the way Maze has been racing of late, no one was going to catch her. Maze used a blazing final run to finish in a combined time of 1 minute, 59.39 seconds to hold off Kathrin Zettel of Austria by nearly a second. Viktoria Rebensburg of Germany was third.
The 29-year-old Maze also won the season-opening GS race in Soelden, Austria, last month, with Zettel taking second there, too.
"I feel like people are watching me now, more than before," Maze said. "I'd like it to continue this way."
All eyes were on Vonn, too, just to see how she performed after a bad stomach bug recently landed her in the hospital.
Vonn was 10th after the first run, but didn't have anything left in the tank for the second pass through the challenging course. The more the four-time overall champion tried to attack the hill, the more snow she sent flying in every direction and the more speed she lost.
"I didn't have the energy I needed to really be competitive," Vonn said. "It's been a real fight to even be able to race today. I didn't have it.
"This isn't exactly the kind of result I was hoping for. But I have to still keep things in perspective and realize that I was very sick just a few days ago."
Vonn did earn her first World Cup points of the season, but trails the leader, Maze, by 240.
However, the next stop is Lake Louise, Alberta, a venue Vonn has typically dominated. She won all three speed races there last season.
Although Vonn competed in Aspen, she would've rather have been going up against the men up north in Lake Louise this weekend. Vonn recently requested to participate in a men's downhill race, only to be rejected by the International Ski Federation.
"I'm definitely frustrated not to be racing with the men," Vonn said. "But I wouldn't be able to race with them at this point anyway. I was sick. Everything happens for a reason. Maybe the opportunity will come up within the next year."
Like possibly an exhibition match against the men down the road?
If that were the case, count Maze in.
"That would be fun," she said.
Vonn's strength has been completely wiped out by the virus, which is finally responding to antibiotics. Until Saturday, she hadn't made it through a full GS run since the bug hit without pulling off to the side out of breath.
This definitely helps with her confidence.
"I just have to stay positive and keep building," said Vonn, who will skip the slalom Sunday to conserve energy.
Maze is showing just how determined she is to steal Vonn's overall title. Maze switched ski technicians before the season and they've instantly been in tune. Maze also finished fourth in a slalom race in Levi, Finland, two weeks ago.
"Everything is under control. I don't risk too much," she explained.
Although Maze finished runner-up to Vonn in the overall standings last season, she still thought of it as a "hard" year.
"It was not a perfect season for me," Maze said. "I had many troubles and many mistakes. I wasn't happy at all. It was tough. I didn't win any races last year."
She might not have ended up No. 1 on the slopes last season, but Maze said she recently occupied the top spot on the musical charts in Slovenia.
She sang on a music video entitled, "My way is my decision," a catchy pop tune. It has generated quite a bit of buzz.
"When I was driving to Soelden, I was almost falling asleep and I heard my song," Maze said. "The announcer said, "Who's this: Adele, Rihanna or Madonna? Can you guess?'
"He let the song roll and then said, 'This is Slovenian skier Tina Maze and she's pretty good at it. For sure, Adele cannot ski that well, but she can.'"
So, is she a budding singer?
"I'm a skier. I don't want to be a singer," Maze said. "But I do like to have fun besides skiing. It was fun to make the video. I'm proud of this."
Teenager Mikaela Shiffrin had the best finish for the Americans as she wound up in ninth place. The 17-year-old was actually on the final step of the podium for quite a while, before finally being bumped off.
"That's a big breakthrough," Shiffrin said.
Julia Mancuso couldn't agree more — for not only Shiffrin, but the rest of the young U.S. skiers.
"Sometimes, it can be daunting with people like me and Lindsey doing well," said Mancuso, who finished 15th. "It's good to show the rest of the team that you just have to go for it. Don't set sights too low because me and Lindsey are both beatable by the young ones — just like today."
The day didn't go quite as well for Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany. She caught an edge that knocked her off balance and straight toward a gate. Just before crashing into the obstacle, she stuck up her left arm, saving her face but bruising her arm.
"It hurts pretty bad," Hoefl-Riesch said.
Pat Graham can be reached on Twitter at http://twitter.com/pgraham34
- Sports & Recreation
- Lindsey Vonn
- Tina Maze