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Vonn loses overall, 'devastated' by canceled race

By Graham Dunbar

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, March 19 2011 4:10 p.m. MDT

Germany's Maria Riesch shows her trophy of the alpine ski, women's World Cup overall title flanked by U.S. Lindsey Vonn, at the World Cup finals in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, Saturday, March 19, 2011. Lindsey Vonn feels "devastated" at losing her World Cup overall title on Saturday without being able to fight for it in the final race. The three-time defending champion was denied to chance to overhaul friend and rival Maria Riesch when the season-finale giant slalom was called off because of poor snow conditions. "Win or lose I just wanted the chance. I feel devastated," Vonn said in a statement published by the U.S. ski team.

Alessandro Trovati, Associated Press

LENZERHEIDE, Switzerland — Lindsey Vonn overcame a concussion and won three titles in three days this month. Yet she was powerless when faced with wet, foggy weather and a decision by skiing's ruling body to cancel the women's season finale.

"Win or lose, I just wanted the chance. I feel devastated," Vonn said in a statement released by her U.S. team.

Vonn was hoping to win a fourth straight overall World Cup title in Saturday's giant slalom. Instead, friend and rival Maria Riesch's three-point lead held in the overall standings after the race was called off because of poor course conditions.

"The cancellation of this race doesn't just hurt me," vonn said. "It hurts the fans and the sport of ski racing as a whole."

Thick fog later descended, making it unlikely the two-run race could have been completed. However, the men's slalom was held Saturday in fog and poor visibility after a delayed start. The men took the 10 a.m. slot originally held by the women.

The International Ski Federation said the decision to cancel — denying Vonn a last chance to retain her title — was not taken lightly.

"Working with these kind of snow conditions, we don't have any tools that would make it a fair race," spokeswoman Riikka Rakic told The Associated Press by telephone. "All the efforts have been undertaken, but it was not quite enough."

The final points tally was 1,728-1,725 in Riesch's favor. The German clinched her first title after two straight seasons as runner-up. Vonn acknowledged some regrets about how the season ended after five months and 33 races.

"There may never be a day where I don't look back and say, 'What if?'" she said. "But right now, all I'm thinking about is how much harder I need to work this summer to continue winning races."

Vonn said Riesch deserved her success.

"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."

Vonn said she was "extremely proud" to have been part of this.

"A few weeks ago I was over 200 points behind, and I was able to battle back into the overall lead with just two races remaining," she said.

Vonn defied predictions with a bold comeback in recent weeks after withdrawing midway through the world championships on Feb. 14 because of the lingering effects of a concussion. She crashed during a training run in Austria on Feb. 2.

Riesch extended her overall lead while Vonn sat out races. Vonn competed in the worlds but skipped training runs and events to try to recover. After finishing seventh in the super-G at worlds on Feb. 8, she said she felt as if she were "skiing in a fog."

Vonn decided to defend her title in the downhill at worlds and won the silver on Feb. 13, but withdrew from the championships a day later. Vonn returned Feb. 25 and finished sixth in the super-combined. Then within a three-day span, she won the downhill, super-G and super-combined titles on March 4-6.

Vonn overtook Riesch for the overall lead with a fourth-place finish in the downhill Wednesday when Riesch failed to score after placing 17th.

After the super-G was canceled because of poor weather Thursday, the Minnesota native still had a 27-point edge. But she scored too few points in the slushy slalom Friday, finishing 13th while Riesch placed fourth. That left her three points behind.

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