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VAIL, Colorado (Reuters) - Snow queen Tina Maze will once again command the spotlight at the alpine ski world championships as she continues her quest for a rare five-medal haul at Beaver Creek in the women's giant slalom on Thursday.
Already the winner of two golds and a silver here in the Vail Valley where she has displayed regal form, the 31-year-old Slovenian will be a red-hot favorite to add a fourth podium finish to her tally from the last nine days.
Giant slalom world champion at Garmisch in 2011, Maze finished second in the event two years ago at Schladming and will be tough to beat down the plunging Raptor racecourse at Beaver Creek where she has been near impregnable.
"It wasn't easy for me to understand the Raptor course at first, but when I understood the timings of the turns and where you should start the turn, it was much easier for me," said Maze.
"It's a hard hill to ski but when you ski like I have been skiing at these worlds, it's so much fun."
Maze is on track to join Norway's Lasse Kjus as the only skiers to win medals in all five disciplines at a single world championships, needing two more podium finishes to emulate him.
Kjus accomplished the feat in 1999 and Maze has the giant slalom and the slalom on Saturday to complete her set.
"I know I can be in each event on the podium and it would be amazing to do that," said the Slovenian, who won golds in the blue riband downhill and the combined and a silver in the Super-G at Beaver Creek.
"Of course, it's not easy and you need to be focused on your run on the hill. But why not?"
Other contenders for the giant slalom include defending champion Tessa Worley of France, World Cup leader Eva-Maria Brem of Austria, her compatriot Anna Fenninger and rising American star Mikaela Shiffrin.
Also competing will be American Lindsey Vonn who considers herself a long shot for the title in her final event at Beaver Creek after a disappointing worlds.
"I came up short and that's disappointing for myself and to my family and my fans," said the 30-year-old, who finished out of the medals in the downhill after taking bronze in the Super-G.
"I'm going to try as hard as I can in the slalom ... and see what happens."
Editing by Frank Pingue