Maze in control of women's giant slalom
Slovenia's Tina Maze competes during the Women's Alpine Skiing Giant Slalom Run 1 at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center during the Sochi Winter Olympics on February 18, 2014 - by Olivier Morin
Maze tied with Dominique Gisin for gold in last week's downhill, and the 30-year-old Slovenian showed all her giant slalom prowess in rainy, warm conditions on the Rosa Khutor course to clock 1min 17.88sec.
First out of the start gate, Maze made the most of a largely unrutted piste, further confirming that her hard-nosed decision to switch coaches to Mauro Pini just a month before the Olympics was paying off.
Last year's overall World Cup winner and a triple-medallist at the Schladming world championships, Maze had been left stunned with her poor performances at the start of the season.
But her form in Sochi has rebounded and she is yet to finish lower than seventh in a race on the Rosa Khutor slopes.
Only four racers got within a second of Maze's time down the first run: Sweden's Jessica Lindell-Vikarby, the current World Cup giant slalom standings leader, was at 0.52sec, followed by Italian Nadia Fanchini (+0.65sec), Austria's recently crowned super-G gold medallist Anna Fenninger (0.85) and American teenager Mikaela Shiffrin (0.91).
Defending Olympic champion in the discipline, Germany's Viktoria Rebensburg, was next at 1.36sec, but her teammate Maria Hoefl-Riesch was a late withdrawal, the super-combined winner at the Sochi Games complaining of 'flu-like conditions.
Shiffrin, crowned world slalom champion at the age of 17 last year, is attempting to become the youngest American to win an Olympic gold medal in alpine skiing -- she's now 18, and she admitted to feeling some nerves.
"I was nervous at the start, but when I was in the gate I wasn't, I just wanted to ski," Shiffrin said. "The surface is pretty good. It's a lot of fun. You just can't push too hard on the turns because it's rainy.
"I pushed the line a little bit too much on the flats... I've just got to loosen up my legs and go for it."
- Race hit by rain, poor visibility -
There were some questions raised over whether the second run would go ahead in pouring rain and limited visibility.
Four years ago, the giant slalom at the Vancouver Olympics had to be held over two days due to heavy fog after the first run, something seventh-placed Swede Maria Pietilae-Holmner did not want to see repeated.
"It's hard to ski the way you want to ski. You just have to be patient," Pietilae-Holmner said.
"It's good with the blue lines (used to mark out the piste). You know whether you're in or out. It's mostly the goggles getting wet so you don't see so much.
"I don't want to do the same as in Vancouver, when they did it over two days. That was strange."
Teammate Frida Hansdotter added: "It's the same for everyone so you just have to keep fighting.
"I don't think it was so good for the first numbers either. It's pretty soft. This is how it is, it's outdoor sports. You don't see that much, but this is how it is sometimes."
One racer left disappointed at her morning's work was American Julia Mancuso, who failed to finish the course.
"It's the Olympics and you just have to go for it," said Mancuso, who won bronze in the super-combined last week.
"With the snow surface not being consistent and you can't really see, it's hard with the timing.
"I just caught a really soft spot and it twisted me, that's the only bummer when the snow is like this, you have to be really precise."