Tina Maze retires from skiing, becomes legend
Maze, 33, stopped skiing soon after starting the giant slalom race to hug her team boss and partner Andrea Massi and coach Valerio Ghirardi.
She did proceed with skiing, but stopped just before the finish line, where she took off her skis to enter the finish area with the skis in her hands greeting the fans.
She admitted that she had copied the farewell gesture of another Slovenian ski legend, Bojan Križaj, now 60, who ended his career in 1988.
Maze started today's World Cup race after a 20-month break from competition with bib number 34.
Her first intermediate time showed she was 69 hundredths of a second behind the first-run leader Mikaela Shiffrin of the US before she stopped to hug Massi and Ghirardi.
Maze explained she had decided to end the race prematurely "practically as soon as I announced my last race will be in Maribor" last October, yet her team learnt about it only last night.
She said that she lacked the energy, she had not trained hard enough and there was just too much emotion for her to be able to compete with top skiers.
Picking Maribor to end the career was obvious "because nowhere in the world have I so much support as in the capital of the Štajersko region".
"Many people came to bid me farewell, which really means a lot. There were many great and many hard moments in skiing and I'm very grateful for everything that has happened to me."
Massi, the man behind Maze's successful career, said watching Tina today, he felt she was really skiing freed of pressure.
Anyhow, the crowd at the Pohorje hills, which was surprised by how she chose to end the career, gave her a heartfelt welcome.
It had been Maze's strong desire to appear in Maribor before retiring because it was here where she made her World Cup debut in 1999, aged 15.
Maribor was also the venue of her first World Cup podium result: she placed second in giant slalom in 2002.
Statistics-wise, her last World Cup race will go down in history as DNF (did not finish), but she is nevertheless considered Slovenia's best skier of all time.
With two golds and two silvers, she is the most successful Slovenian Winter Olympic athlete.
She is also the second most successful Slovenian Olympic athlete, having been beaten only by gymnast Leon Štukelj (1898-1999), who won six medals in the 1920s and 1930s.
Maze also boasts four world championship golds, 26 World Cup wins and being the only Slovenian to win the overall title in the Alpine Ski World Cup.
She won the overall title in 2013 to successfullly end her record-breaking 2012/2013 season.
She has won the top national accolade for athletes, the Bloudek Prize, and was honoured by the Slovenian Sports Journalists' Association with the Athlete of the Year title six times.
She was decorated by President Borut Pahor with the Golden Order for Merits for promoting Slovenia and inspiring people in the stellar skiing season 2012/2013.
She was declared the best athlete of the world by readers of Italy's Gazzetta dello Sport in 2014 and the best European athlete by European press agencies in 2013.
In 2014, she was among six women athletes shortlisted for the Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year, one of the most prestigious sports awards in the world.
She was also honoured with her own postal stamp, while in 2015 a Slovenian biologist named a tiny Madagascar tree spider after Maze - Caerostris tinamaze.
Among the crowd cheering her were also Slovenian top officials, including PM Miro Cerar, President Pahor, Sport Minister Maja Makovec Brenčič as well as several ex-Slovenian top skiers.
Pahor told the press that Maze was a great inspiration, for which we should be all "deeply grateful" to her.
Moreover, the three winners of today's giant slalom praised Maze as a great athlete and person saying they were honoured to have been able to compete with her.
France's Tessa Worley, who placed first, was very happy to see her in the World Cup circuit again. "I was very happy to see Tina again among us. Tina deserves all respect."
Italy's Sofia Goggia, the second placed, was crying. "When she started her final race...I started crying like a baby. I see Tina as my idol because of her attitude, the passion with which she was skiing when she always tried to give her best."
Switzerland's Lara Gut, who finished third, was honoured to have been able to compete with Maze. "Tina is an exceptional athlete and a great person...I remember the beginning of my career when she was already successful and she helped me, for which I want to thank her again."
Before leaving the 53rd Golden Fox venue, Maze presented a biographical novel which will be released by publisher DZS next month.
"Jaz. Tina" (I. Tina) was written by journalist Vito Divac on the basis of her diaries.