A year from now in the mountains above Sochi, there will be one set of story lines attached to U.S. women's ski racers: Can Lindsey Vonn come back from a terrible knee injury? Can Mikaela Shiffrin win gold at age 18? Can Julia Mancuso continue to deliver on the biggest stage? And there will be another story line for the rest of the Alpine world: Can Tina Maze of Slovenia win everything?
Maze, 29, has one week left—the World Cup finals are March 13--17 in Lenzerheide, Switzerland—in what has been among the best seasons by any women's racer in history. She has won nine individual races (approaching Vreni Schneider's record 14 wins in 1989), reached the podium 20 times and scored 2,074 points, breaking Vonn's record of 1,980 set a year ago and also surpassing Austrian great Hermann Maier's record 2,000-point total from 2000. Maze has also clinched season titles in giant slalom and combined. In Lenzerheide she'll most likely wrap up downhill (she trails the injured Vonn by a point), could win Super G (she leads Mancuso by 55 points) and has a shot at slalom (she trails Shiffrin by 33 points). No racer has won all five event titles in a season.
A steady performer on the World Cup circuit since 2001, Maze broke through with a silver at the '09 worlds and then won two silvers at the '10 Olympics in Vancouver, a performance that was overshadowed in the U.S. by Vonn's downhill gold and Super G bronze and Mancuso's two silvers. Last year Maze finished in the top five in four of the five disciplines and scored 1,402 points, a distant second to Vonn.
Maze began this season in October by releasing a pop song—"My Way Is My Decision"—that broadened her cultural appeal. More ominously, she took fourth in a Super G race last weekend in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, while under police protection after race organizers said they received an e-mailed death threat against Maze.
Her season carries an asterisk, however. Vonn, winner of four of the last five overall titles, was weakened early in the season by an intestinal ailment, took a month off and then went out in a crash on Feb. 5 at the worlds. Likewise, four-time slalom champion Marlies Schild of Austria has missed nearly the entire season with a knee injury. Maze is a snowy version of the 1994 and '95 Rockets, who won NBA titles in a Jordan-free league. Next year she can prove she is the Bulls.
THEY SAID IT
"My new favorite player on the team is Nick Castellanos—because his dad is a lung doctor."
JIM LEYLAND Tigers manager and longtime smoker, on Detroit's third base prospect.
A head-to-head, tale-of-the-tape comparison of some of the biggest newsmakers in sports, with their analogous celebrity peers
NEW AND NOTEWORTHY
JOE FLACCORavens QB
Piloted Delaware Blue Hens to 2007 FCS championship game
NFL's highest-paid player (for now) thanks to six-year, $120.6 million contract
2013 Super Bowl MVP
FALCAOAtlético Madrid striker
Netted hat trick in 4--1 trouncing of Chelsea in 2012 UEFA Super Cup
With 21 goals through Sunday, has historically middling club sitting in second place—ahead of crosstown rival Real Madrid—in La Liga
Short-listed for 2012 Ballon d'Or
Wowed as gangster's moll in HBO's The Sopranos
Getting glowing reviews for her role as a teacher in off-Broadway play The Madrid
Four prime-time leading actress Emmys
LEON HALIP/GETTY IMAGES (LEYLAND)
KARL-JOSEF HILDENBRAND/EPA (MAZE)
EDGE OF GREATNESS Maze, who has already set a new World Cup season points record and now has her eye on five event titles, will take on Vonn next year in Sochi.
KEVIN NIXON/COMPUTER ARTS MAGAZINE/GETTY IMAGES (EMMY)
JASON KEMPIN/GETTY IMAGES (FALCO)
SIMON BELLIS/CAL SPORT MEDIA (FALCAO)
JOHN W. MCDONOUGH (FLACCO)