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4th-place Tina Maze still fights for Alpine form

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — For Tina Maze, finishing fourth in the first women's Alpine skiing event at the Sochi Olympics is just how her difficult season is going.

Maze was "fighting with myself" in the decisive slalom leg of the super-combined won by Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany. "It's hard to ski slalom for me this way this season," said Maze, who had the third fastest morning downhill to build a 0.18-lead over Hoefl-Riesch. "It's just not working out."

The Slovenian racer has struggled to repeat the results from her historically good 2013 season, even describing her recent attempts as "mediocre" on her website. Last season, Maze won 11 World Cup races and amassed a record points total. She also added a world championships victory in super-G plus silver medals in super-combined and giant slalom.

Still, on Monday, it took an impressive downhill run and a battling slalom for American Julia Mancuso to deny Maze a medal by 0.10 seconds. "It's hard to be fourth," said Maze, who is back in action Wednesday in the marquee downhill medal race. "I'm not winning. I'm not the last one. It's something in the middle."

She can take encouragement that her only victory this season came in the speed event, last month at Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy. "I'm still skiing good. I'm happy about that," said Maze, who has looked anything but content at times on the World Cup circuit.

Like Hoefl-Riesch, Maze is a threat in all five events. She won two medals at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, getting silvers in super-G and giant slalom while her German rival won super-combined and slalom.

"I think I'm just not so confident as I was last year in slalom," said Maze, who saw American teen Mikaela Shiffrin win gold at the 2013 worlds then blow by her in a dramatic final race for the season-long World Cup discipline title.

However, Maze has taken at least one medal home from every major event since leaving the 2007 worlds empty-handed — a span that includes the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and three world championships. With four Olympic races remaining over 11 days, Maze insisted: "I'm not skiing bad."

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