Riesch takes overall World Cup title
March 22, 2011
LENZERHEIDE, Switzerland After five months of ski racing across a dozen countries, the Audi FIS Alpine World Cup overall title came down to a mere three points and a hundredth of a second. Germany’s Maria Riesch took the title over the U.S. Ski Team’s Lindsey Vonn (Vail, Colo.) Saturday when the much-anticipated finale was canceled due to fog and soft snow, breaking the American’s three-year title string.
Despite missing the overall crown, Vonn took home three discipline titles (downhill, super G and super combined), bringing her American record to 12. Vonn won eight individual World Cup races to extend her U.S. career mark to 41, further solidifying her place as America’s winningest ski racer of all time.
"Win or lose, I just wanted the chance," said Vonn. "I feel devastated. But I’m extremely proud to have been in the fight in what was one of the most exciting seasons in ski racing history."
Despite winning more races, Vonn trailed Riesch in the overall standings nearly the entire season and hadn’t led since late December. A few weeks ago she was more than 200 points behind heading into a string of technical events where the German star was heavily favored.
But Vonn came back with a career-first giant slalom podium in the Czech Republic and entered the World Cup Finals just 23 points behind Riesch. In the Finals opener March 16, Vonn took advantage of Riesch’s mistakes in the downhill to move back into the lead by 27 points. However, Riesch leapfrogged ahead in Friday’s slalom a mere hundredth of a second earning her just enough points to pass Vonn setting the stage for what many had hoped would be a head-to-head battle in the giant slalom final.
But much like a day earlier when the men’s giant slalom was canceled, officials inspected the course early Saturday and made an immediate decision to cancel the women’s giant slalom without trying to wait for improving conditions.
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Rain and warm temperatures had plagued the races all week. The super G, Vonn’s strongest event, was also canceled Thursday.
"I feel so sorry for Lindsey," said U.S. Ski Team Head Coach Alex Hoedelmoser. "Just to call it in the morning wasn’t the right way to go. We should have tried everything possible to get this race off. This is a tough day for Lindsey and the sport of ski racing."
It was bittersweet for Vonn, who has long been close friends with Riesch. "The cancelation of this race doesn’t just hurt me, it hurts the fans and the sport of ski racing as a whole," she said.
"Maria had an outstanding season and again proved to be my biggest competitor," said Vonn. "She’s worked really hard for this. I’m happy for her and every athlete who stood on the top step this season."
Vonn also had accolades for her U.S. Ski Team teammates who had a strong season. Park City native Ted Ligety won World Championship gold as well as the World Cup GS title an American record third time. Julia Mancuso (Squaw Valley, Calif.) had a resurgence, including a win in the World Cup Finals downhill.
"Ted continues to take GS to a new level; Julia was right back on the podium and the U.S. women won the downhill and super G standings," said Vonn. "I cannot thank my husband, coaches and our entire team enough for their support. This was a great season."
Leaving Lenzerheide with three crystal globes, Vonn reflected on five months and dozens of ski races.
"There are so many ways to look at this," said Vonn. "There may never be a day where I don’t look back and say ‘what if.’ But right now, all I’m thinking about is how much harder I need to work this summer to continue winning races. I love ski racing."