LENZERHEIDE, Switzerland Tina Maze is targeting the greatest season in World Cup history, and she aims to start finals week today by dethroning downhill queen Lindsey Vonn.
On the mens side in Lenzerheide, Aksel Lund Svindal likely must repeat his stunning run of victories here in 2007 to beat Marcel Hirscher for the overall title.
Hirschers outstanding giant slalom form has been eclipsed only by Ted Ligetys career year, and the three-time world champion from the U.S. will ski for a sixth World Cup win Saturday.
Despite Vonns absence because of a knee injury and missing other star attractions such as Bode Miller, resting for the Olympic season, and retired home favorite Didier Cuche the season finale likely will be decided by tiny margins.
In 46 World Cup seasons, only French great Jean-Claude Killy in 1967 has ever swept their seasons titles. Maze can match that this week in a more competitive era, and shes sustaining her excellence in more than twice as many races.
I was dreaming about this as a kid, that I would be so good, the Slovenian said Tuesday. I am really living it.
When Killy dominated the inaugural mens circuit, he topped the overall, downhill, giant slalom and slalom standings across a 17-race season from January to March.
Maze will complete a 37-race, five-month campaign Sunday with a record points total, approaching 2,500. She can add downhill, super-G and slalom titles to the overall and GS crystal globes she locked up weeks ago.
After a long season, I am happy and proud, said Maze, who competed in five races at the World Championships last month and took home a gold medal and two silvers.
The successful U.S. team and the seasons breakout star Mikaela Shiffrin pose the biggest danger to a Maze sweep in slalom.
Shiffrin, who celebrates her 18th birthday today, has three wins to Mazes two, and trails by just seven points with 100 awarded to Saturdays race winner.
Maze already had outpaced Vonn, who was slowed by illness in November, before the defending champions season-ended crash in the worlds super-G, which Maze won.
Such is Vonns strength in downhill that the five-time title winner still leads the season-long standings, but her one-point margin wont last if Maze starts and gets a top-15 placing today.
The weather forecast suggests the race will happen, though Maze can be overtaken by Vonns good friend, Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany, or her American teammate Stacey Cook.
Weather poses a greater risk to Thursdays super-G, but cancelling will give Maze the title and deny second-place Julia Mancuso a shot at earning her first career crystal.
Im psyched to be in the hunt, the American said Tuesday.
But Mancuso is realistic.
In order to win the globe, you have to win races, and I havent won races this season, she said.
Mancuso believes Mazes season ranks among the all-time greatest.
Definitely. In the modern day its super-impressive, especially when there are no guys that can be competitive in four disciplines, Mancuso said.
Svindal hopes Sundays season-ending mens slalom Hirschers specialty event wont be decisive even though he starts the week 149 points back.
The Norwegian needs to win the downhill, super-G and GS races as he did six years ago to take his first giant crystal globe.
It basically means bringing out the best week of my career, said Svindal, who leads the downhill standings going into todays race and already secured the super-G title. I have had a really good season, and (Hirscher) just had an even better one.
Svindals threat has Hirscher concerned enough to plan a rare start in super-G. Even another thrilling Ligety-Hirscher duel that day, however, could be simply a sidebar to Maze vs. Shiffrin with history in the making.