Lindsey Vonn or Maria Riesch? World Cup crown up for grabs in final showdown

March, 16, 2011
3/16/11
1:45
AM ET

Four days, two women, one trophy. If this were a movie script, it might have been sent back for tweaks because it's a little too perfect, especially since Lindsey Vonn and Maria Riesch also happen to be good friends.

The forecast in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, is for warm temperatures and hot competition in the women's Alpine skiing World Cup final. Germany's Riesch and the United States' Vonn go at it in the downhill event Wednesday, the super-G Thursday, the slalom Friday and the giant slalom Saturday for all the marbles. Riesch leads Vonn by a scant 23 points in a series where wins count for 100.

[+] EnlargeMaria Riesch, Lindsey Vonn
Clive Mason/Getty ImagesMaria Riesch, left, leads Lindsey Vonn by just 23 points heading into this weekend's World Cup events.

What's actually at stake is the big crystal globe awarded to the best overall skier on the circuit. If Vonn wins, it would be her fourth straight and perhaps hardest to achieve. If Riesch hangs on, she would become the first German woman to capture the championship in 13 years and the third in history.

Over the past two weeks, Vonn has clinched season titles in the combined, downhill and super-G events and steadily whittled away at Riesch's lead. Her stock is on the uptick, a trend underscored by the rivals' results last weekend in the technical events. Instead, the woman who has won more World Cup races than any other American skier, male or female, reached the GS podium for the first time in her career, finishing third; meanwhile, Riesch DNFed on the second run of the slalom.

Vonn declared she is where she wants to be after racing from behind all season, and she wouldn't be there without having taken some chances. She embraces both the great performances and the mishaps on her Facebook page and Twitter feed, posting videos of her crashes and, just last week, a photo of a little unwanted facial color.

Her decision to race the downhill at the World Championships shortly after sustaining what was described as a mild concussion has been questioned, and rightly so given our ever-increasing knowledge about the potential consequences of those risks. But no one can doubt the passion Vonn brought to the circuit this season even after checking off the lifetime goal of winning an Olympic gold medal a little more than a year ago in Vancouver.

The men's competition will be somewhat of an afterthought. Croatia's Ivica Kostelic built a Secretariat-like lead to clinch the overall crown last weekend. Giant slalom specialist Ted Ligety of the U.S. will try to keep his grip on a 77-point lead over Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal (Cyprien Richard of France is just another three points shy in third) to win his third season title in the discipline.

Bonnie D. Ford covers Olympic sports for ESPN.com.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Comments

You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?