German ski racer Maria Riesch has won the women's World Cup overall title, after losing her lead to American skier Lindsey Vonn earlier in the week, and regaining it with a strong Slalom race on Friday, March 18. Bad weather forced the cancellation of today's Giant Slalom at the World Cup finals in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, ending the season, and ensuring Riesch's overall victory.
Vonn trailed Riesch through much of the season, but chipped away at her lead, finally skiing into first place with a strong Downhill race Wednesday, March 16 that gave her a 27-point lead.
Riesch regained the lead Friday with her fourth place finish in Slalom, worth 50 points. Vonn finished in 13th place, earning 20 points, and slipping three points behind Riesch.
The ski racing world was set up for one of the most exciting season finales in World Cup history, but poor snow conditions led race officials to call off the Giant Slalom. FIS rules state that races cancelled at the World Cup finals cannot be rescheduled.
"Win or lose I just wanted the chance. I feel devastated," Vonn said after the cancellation of today's Giant Slalom race.
"The cancellation of this race doesn't just hurt me, it hurts the fans and the sport of ski racing as a whole," she said.
Vonn has won three overall women's World Cup titles, and was seeking her fourth in a row. She and Riesch are close friends, and Vonn will attend her wedding this summer.
"Maria had an outstanding season and again proved to be my biggest competitor," Vonn said. "She's worked really hard for this. I'm happy for her."
It was nevertheless a good season for Vonn, who clinched three World Cup titles - in Downhill, Super-G, and Combined -- with a stellar performance in Tarvisio, Italy earlier this month.
It also was a good season for U.S. skier Julia Mancuso, who won her first World Cup Downhill in four years on Wednesday, March 16, in the same race that catapulted Vonn into first place in overall standings.
Mancuso's victory put her in third place overall in Downhill.
"I've been working through injuries and working hard for the past four years," Mancuso said after the win. "I'm finally back on the top of the downhill podium and it feels great. The switch to Voelkl skis has been amazing. It just gives me a lot of confidence that next year is going to be even better."
Mancuso said she will donate 50 percent of her winnings from last week to the Japan earthquake relief effort.