Cortina d'Ampezzo (Italy) (AFP) - Slovenia's Tina Maze underlined her Olympic medal ambitions with a first World Cup win of the season in the women's downhill at sun-drenched Cortina on Saturday.
The defending World Cup champion made the most of the perfect race conditions in the Italian Dolomites to complete the Olympia delle Tofane course in a time of 1min 37.79sec to open her season account two weeks before the Sochi Games.
Swiss Marianne Kaufmann-Abderhalden, who claimed her maiden World Cup win last month at the Val d'Isere downhill, was second at 0.27secs with Lichtenstein's Tina Weirather third at 0.38.
Germany's Maria Hoefl-Riesch, who boosted her World Cup overall lead with victory in a shortened Cortina downhill on Friday, could only finish fourth at 0.54 after a costly mistake moments after setting out to tackle the 2.66km long course.
Austrian Anna Fenninger, third in the overall World Cup standings behind Hoefl-Riesch and Weirather, finished tied for fifth with Stacey Cook, with her fellow American Julia Mancuso seventh at 0.63.
Maze's 23rd win of her career follows two third places in a slalom (Levi) and giant slalom (St. Moritz) and a runner-up place at the Val d'Isere downhill.
Amid what has been a mediocre season for the 30-year-old, Maze attributed her success to the recent arrival of Mauro Pini as Slovenia's head coach.
"Mauro brought peace in the team because it just became easier with him. We knew he was a great coach with a lot of experience," said Maze, who won Olympic silver in the super-G and giant slalom in Vancouver four years ago.
"With him in the team I just have to focus on my skiing and not on other matters. He understood the situation and all the emotions going through my body and mind.
"He told me not to fight against but to accept the emotions and ski with it.
"In yesterday's downhill, I was skiing well before a little mistake in the lower section that cost me some speed and time. Today I managed to do a great run from top to bottom."
Following on from her maiden win, Kaufamann-Abderhalden was delighted with her third podium of the season.
"I am for sure really happy to be on the podium," she said. "I skied well in the top section. The middle part wasn't that good but I managed to build up some good speed for the last section.
"Yesterday I made two big mistakes and was just hoping for a mistake free run today. I'm glad it happened."
The World Cup weekend in Cortina concludes Sunday with a super-G.