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By Patrick Lang
MERIBEL, France, Feb 24 (Reuters) - Tina Maze sealed her near-perfect Alpine skiing season with the overall World Cup when she won a women's super-combined event on Sunday.
Fastest in the morning downhill section, the Slovenian secured her position in the afternoon slalom to bag her ninth victory of the season in an aggregate time of one minute 59.54 seconds.
The victory took a while to sink in for Maze, who was suffering from a stomach bug and was not even aware that the World Cup was at stake when she started the second leg.
"I was really in a bad way and I didn't even believe I would make it to the finish. I nearly went out twice and I just tried to get down there as quickly as I could," she said.
While Austrians Nicole Hosp and Michaela Kirchgasser were second and third, 0.82 and 0.90 behind respectively, all eyes were on Germany's Maria Hoefl-Riesch, the only skier still in a position to delay Maze's official crowning.
When the super-combined world champion straddled a gate and crashed towards the end of her slalom run, the 29-year-old Maze achieved her lifetime goal by winning the trophy.
With nine World Cup races left until the end of the season, Maze leads Hoefl-Riesch by 958 points and can no longer be caught as each victory awards 100 points.
"I was not even aware that Maria was out and I only realised I had won the globe when Niki and Michi congratulated me in the finish area," Maze said.
With 1,844 points, the Slovenian is also widely expected to become the first woman to break the 2,000-points barrier and she could do so as early as next week in Garmisch-Partenkirchen with three races scheduled in the German resort.
Maze, the first Slovenian to win the overall World Cup, won the giant slalom world title in 2011 and the super-G world crown this month in Schladming and has taken the 2013 giant slalom World Cup.
"Last year I didn't win a single race and when I said I wanted to win the World Cup, everybody was laughing.
"Lots of thoughts are going through my mind now, it's a little too much for me. When the national anthem went on the podium, it was hard to hold my tears.
"We're a small country of two million people, it's not always easy to follow a different path there," said Maze, who severed links with her national federation to start her own training outfit five years ago.
While no super-combined crystal globe is being awarded this season, the Slovenian is still in contention to win the three other speciality World Cups.
"My goal is to remain focused and to go all the way, to stretch my limits in the three remaining weeks," she said.
"I can break the 2,000 points, I can win more globes, beat the record of podiums in a season. There's still a lot left to achieve." (Editing by Clare Fallon)