Tina Maze wins giant slalom

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia -- Tina Maze skied through rain and snow to win Olympic gold, and then swam through slush to celebrate.

In tough conditions on the slopes above Sochi, Maze won her second gold medal of the 2014 Games by leading the giant slalom from start to finish.

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.

Wearing bib No. 1, Maze skied cautiously and cleanly through the gates to finish 0.07 seconds ahead of Anna Fenninger of Austria.

Maze celebrated by belly-flopping onto the wet snow and pretending to swim the breaststroke.

Defending champion Viktoria Rebensburg of Germany was third, trailing 0.27 behind Maze's two-run time of 2 minutes, 36.87 seconds.

American teenager Mikaela Shiffrin placed fifth in her Olympic debut, missing a medal by just 0.23 seconds.

"Next Olympics I go to, I'm sure as heck not getting fifth," said Shiffrin.

Her goal was gold Tuesday. But under difficult conditions the 18-year-old gained some valuable experience that could pay off when she goes off as the favorite Friday in the slalom.

"I wanted a gold, but I also think this was meant to happen," she said. "It's something I will learn from the next Olympics I go to I'm sure."

The closest thing to a replacement for the U.S. in the Olympics for the injured Lindsey Vonn, Shiffrin had a chance to boost the flagging hopes of the country's ski team by snatching a medal in her Olympic debut.

"It's amazing to be at my first Olympics and have that first race out of the way," said Shiffrin, who finished fifth. "That was also a very cool race to be a part of, especially with the top three girls, they really raced well."

Shiffrin raced well herself, bettering her time in the second run as snow alternated with rain. But a couple of mistakes on turns cost her valuable tenths of a second in the middle of the second run and she couldn't make them up.

Shiffrin was in second place as she crossed the finish line, but there were four other skiers with first run times better than her who were yet to ski. It became a numbers game that Shiffrin quickly lost.

"I tried to race from the very start to the very finish," she said. "I think it was a pretty fair race and I'm just really in awe of the top three girls."

Shiffrin, who first raced in the World Cup at the age of 15 and is the reigning slalom champion, is still an overwhelming favorite to win a gold medal on Friday. She had never won a World Cup giant slalom, though she has been on the podium twice in the race on the World Cup circuit this year and was given an outside chance at picking up a medal in this race.

Shiffrin said she believes she wasn't going to win her first World Cup slalom race until she was ready, and feels the same way about the giant slalom. Her time will come in the race, she said, but this wasn't it.

"I was really thinking my first giant slalom win would be at the Olympics and that would be really cool to accomplish," she said. "It's just something I accept. I got fifth today and there are four girls that did better than me and I'm really excited to analyze their skiing and try to analyze mine."

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