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Riesch Takes FIS Alpine World Cup Title by Three Over Vonn
After five months of ski racing across a dozen countries, the Audi FIS Alpine World Cup 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, CO) Saturday when the much anticipated finale was canceled due to fog and soft snow, breaking the American's three-year title string.
Universal Sports TV will provide same-day coverage from Lenzerheide with commentators Steve Porino and Doug Lewis recapping the season at 12:00 p.m. E.T. with rebroadcasts at 2:30 p.m., 8:00 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.
Despite missing the overall crown, Vonn took home three discipline titles (downhill, super G, super combined) bringing her American record to 12. Vonn won eight 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 than Riesch, Vonn was behind nearly the entire season and had last led in late December. Just a few weeks ago she was over 200 points behind and 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 last weekend in the Czech Republic, coming into the World Cup Finals just 23 points behind. In the Finals opener Wednesday, Vonn took advantage of Riesch's mistakes in the downhill to move back into the lead by 27 points. Riesch flip-flopped it in Friday's slalom – a mere hundredth of a second giving her just enough points to get past Vonn – setting the stage for what many had hoped would be a head-to-head battle in the giant slalom final.
Much like what happened a day earlier with cancelation of the men's giant slalom, officials inspected the course early Saturday and made an immediate decision to cancel without trying to delay through the day in hope of improving conditions. Rain and warm temperatures have 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."
"The cancelation of this race doesn't just hurt me, it hurts the fans and the sport of ski racing as a whole," said Vonn
It was bittersweet for Vonn, who has long been close friends with Riesch. "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 had accolades, too, for her own U.S. Ski Team teammates who had a strong season. Julia Mancuso (Squaw Valley, CA) had a resurgence, including a win in the World Cup Finals downhill.
Despite leaving Lenzerheide with three crystal globes, it was hard for Vonn to not reflect back over 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."
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Photo Credit: Dario Belingheri/Bettini Photo
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photo David Cannon/Getty images