SCHLADMING, Austria - Tessa Worley mastered a difficult giant slalom course to perfection twice, earning France its second gold medal and fourth overall at the world championships on Thursday.
Worley, a bronze medalist two years ago, posted the fastest time in both runs on the Planai course, the steep and icy run also used by the men at the event.
Worley finished in a combined time of 2 minutes, 8.06 seconds to lead the field by more than a second, a massive margin in skiing. Defending champion Tina Maze of Slovenia was third, followed by Anna Fenninger of Austria.
"A dream has come true," said Worley, who won seven races on the World Cup - all in GS. "I am very relieved. Winning in Schladming is great. This is not just a race, this is the world championship."
American teen Mikaela Shiffrin finished 2.30 behind in sixth in her first appearance at a major championship. Lindsey Vonn, winner of the last World Cup GS before the worlds, didn't race after a season-ending knee injury in the super G last week.
Maze, who has already won this season's World Cup GS title, was 1.12 back in second for her third medal of the worlds after winning the super G and placing second in the super-combined.
Fenninger was 1.18 behind to earn the bronze, the home nation's fourth medal.
Worley said the rock-hard course, including an unusual steep part for a women's GS, favored her.
"I like difficult hills," Worley said. "I knew before the start I could be really fast on this hill. I just had to ski freely and avoid mistakes."
Worley's victory followed up on gold for Marion Rolland in downhill, silver for Gauthier de Tessieres in super G and bronze for David Poisson in downhill.
"I am very proud of them all," Worley said. "We have a great atmosphere in our team and now I am a part of the party."
France won its sixth gold medal in women's GS at the worlds and matched the record held by Switzerland.
After winning four races this season, Maze started as a clear favorite. But she was more than a second behind Worley after a disappointing opening run.
Maze had to adjust her line shortly after the start and never looked comfortable as she struggled for rhythm.
The Slovenian rallied by putting in an all-attacking second run with an impressive finish.
"This medal is nicer than all others," Maze said. "I had a bad feeling after the first run. Everything went wrong and I was very down. It was my worst run all season. I tried to stay positive and then my second run was really great."
Olympic champion Viktoria Rebensburg was slowed by a rib injury following a training crash on Wednesday and finished 3.33 off the lead in 11th. Her German teammate, former overall champ Maria Hoefl-Riesch, was 3.09 back in ninth.
The GS featured a record 139 starters from 55 nations, including China, Uzbekistan, India, Iran, Libya, Taiwan and Armenia. Several skiers finished more than 30 seconds off the lead. Only the top 60 qualified for the second run.
The men's GS is Friday.