Crash Course: Tina Maze is to Slovenia what Lindsey Vonn is to America in alpine skiing. Injury-free, Maze has a leg up on Vonn at this point. Maze started off as a giant slalom specialist, and now she competes in all disciplines and is a major medal threat in Sochi. She was at her best in the 2013 season, when she set a record with 24 podium finishes, smashing the previous record of 18. Away from the snow, she is an accomplished model and singer.
Athletic Profile: Maze, 30, is a veteran who has reached her peak at an age that many skiers are in a sharp decline. She won two silver medals at the Vancouver Olympics in the super-G and giant slalom. The Slovenian star has also won two gold and four silver medals at the world championships.
The Rivalry: Vonn is America's skiing icon, but last week she pulled out of a spot on the U.S. Olympic team because of a right knee injury. Maze confessed to American skier Julia Mancuso last year how much she wanted to beat Vonn. Per Nathaniel Vinton of the New York Daily News, Mancuso said, "She told me her goal going into this year was just to beat Lindsey...No matter what, she’s in it for the win. That’s why you see her being a little disappointed when she gets second sometimes."
So with Vonn out, who might present a challenge for Maze?
How about 18-year-old American skier Mikaela Shiffrin, who won both the World Cup and world championship titles in slalom last year, and who just this week won a slalom race in Austria, finishing 2.22 seconds ahead of the 12th-place Maze.
Off the Slopes: Maze released a song called "My Way is My Decision" before the 2013 ski season, and the up-tempo track became one of the most popular music videos ever released by a Slovenian artist, quickly rising to more than 400,000 YouTube views. She also has an established modeling career.