Norwegian great rooting for Maze to tie his world mark
BEAVER CREEK, Colo. (AP) Lasse Kjus is eager to show he can still race, even if he has to rent his skis and boots to do so.
The Norwegian great is competing again at the world championships. Only, it's in a ski legends race for charity later this week, and he has no expectations of earning any sort of medal.
Kjus certainly picked up enough of them at the 1999 worlds in Beaver Creek, when he captured a medal in all five disciplines. Now, his mark is being challenged by Slovenia's Tina Maze, who's 3-for-3 in medals so far after winning gold during the Alpine combined Monday.
He's rooting for her to tie his mark at worlds because, ''that's what records are for, right?''
Kjus flew in from Norway just to watch the championships. It's only fitting that Maze make a run at his impressive mark with him around. He's not surprised that she's doing so well and hopes more skiers follow in her tracks and train both for speed and technical events.
''Everybody is talking about how it's impossible to do slalom and downhill, but just look at Tina,'' said the 44-year-old Kjus, who's looking forward to the legends race Wednesday that's expected to include quite a few big names. ''It's fantastic. You need skiers like her. She brings an identity to the circuit.''
Kjus' most vivid memory of his performance? Easy: how sick he was heading into the event. He didn't think he would even be able to compete because of the flu.
''I was really worried going into the first race, because I didn't feel so good,'' he recalled. ''I was able to pull it together and had some good skiing. It was a positive boost.''
He won his first event, the super-G. He also won the giant slalom, while finishing runner-up in the downhill, combined and slalom.
And while he may not be able to recall his winning times, he does remember that his three second-places finishes were by a combined margin of 0.58 seconds. He was that close to five golds.
''I've had some good success here,'' said Kjus, who has two young kids and another on the way. ''I enjoy being here. I've had some really good results here. Vail, this area, have always been good to me.''
Almost as good for Maze - so far anyway. Last week, Maze earned silver in the super-G and gold in the downhill. She's looking to match Kjus' mark by picking up medals in the giant slalom Thursday and the slalom Saturday.
''It would be awesome to (do) that,'' Maze said. ''I really hope I can do that, because I know I can be in each event on the podium. Of course, it's not easy.''
Things to know as the some of the racers take part in a team event in Vail on Tuesday:
FEBRUARY MADNESS: The Nations Team event is the only team-style competition at worlds. It's a bracket tournament where teams advance, similar to the March Madness. Two men and two women from each country compete head-to-head in a parallel giant slalom race. Win and that nation advances. Lose and that nation is knocked out. Austria is the defending champ.
BIG NAMES: Olympic gold medalists Julia Mancuso, Mikaela Shiffrin and Ted Ligety are all competing in the team event for the Americans. This will be Shiffrin's first race of the world championships. She's the defending world champion in the slalom.
KIRCHGASSER'S CHARGE: Austrian skier Michaela Kirchgasser has two golds in the team event. She enters the competition this season loaded with confidence after earning a bronze in the Alpine combined Monday. ''I think I did pretty well,'' Kirchgasser said.
DIFFICULT DAY: American Lindsey Vonn broke into tears after she failed to finish the slalom portion of the Alpine combined. The pressure of competing in front of a hometown crowd is weighing on her. ''I'm just really disappointed,'' said Vonn, whose lone medal at worlds so far is a bronze in the super-G. ''I really tried as hard as I could.'' She has one last chance for another medal in the giant slalom.
STERLING SILVER: Nicole Hosp of Austria added a silver medal at worlds in the Alpine combined to the silver she captured in the event at the 2014 Sochi Games. ''I know what I have to do for big events,'' Hosp said. ''I just focus on me, push everything and it works.''