Maze and Hirscher ready to shine snow

Maze and Hirscher ready to shine snow

SCHLADMING, Austria - Agence France-Presse
Maze and Hirscher ready to shine snow

Tina Maze of Slovenia is seen celebrating her victory on the podium of the FIS women’s World Cup slalom in Maribor in this photo taken on Jan. 27. EPA photo

Slovenia’s Tina Maze and Austrian tyro Marcel Hirscher have set the World Cup circuit alight this season, and the duo seem well set to do the same at the February 4-17 World Ski Championships.

The Austrian resort of Schladming is host to the 42nd world championships which kick off Tuesday with the women’s super-G race, when Maze will come up against United States starlet Lindsey Vonn.

Ten individual gold medals are up for grabs with the world’s top men and women racing for downhill, slalom, super combined, super-G and giant slalom titles, plus the team competition.

The men’s competition will focus on the affable Hirscher, the 23-year-old Austrian, keen to perform on home snow in front of an expectant crowd. Hirscher dramatically snatched the overall World Cup title last season and currently leads the standings this year on the back of six slalom victories.

The technical specialist cedes his superiority in the speed events, Norwegian colossus Aksel Lund Svindal bearing the favourite’s mantle.

Canada raises hopes

Canada will be hoping it’s third time lucky in the downhill after Erik Guay mirrored John Kucera in the blue riband event in the last two editions, but the Italian team, led by Christof Innerhofer and Dominik Paris, will be in the mix. Didier Cuche’s retirement will not help the struggling Swiss men’s team, with Patrick Kueng’s 15th-placed finish in the downhill and Carlo Janka’s disappointing 10th in the super combined the sorry highlights of a disastrous weekend in Kitzbuehel.

The Swiss ski federation were moved to announce the creation of a new post to oversee its alpine skiing branch. It argued that the current competition head could not marry all the different tasks needed, something the federation said was manifested in the “crisis gripping the men’s national team at the moment.”