March Madness Begins: Vonn vs. Riesch

Posted By: The Ski Channel on March 18, 2011 11:05 am

LENZERHEIDE, SWITZERLAND – On Wednesday Lindsey Vonn stole the Audi FIS Alpine World Cup lead from Maria Riesch. Today, Riesch took it right back – by only three points. Now, an entire five month season boils down to one race – tomorrow’s giant slalom. Universal Sports TV will provide same-day coverage this Saturday at 2:30 p.m. ET.

“It’s Madness”
“This is March madness on snow,” said Universal Sports commentator Steve Porino after Friday’s slalom where Riesch was fourth and Vonn 13th. “Imagine you’re in the Final Four and you get sent to the line in the final seconds of the game to seal the lead. But you’re a 43 percent shooter. That’s Vonn’s finish rate in slalom. Meanwhile Riesch has finished over 90 percent in the last two years and is among the fastest when she does. Problem is, Riesch skied out in the last two. It’s almost as though the overall is starting from scratch and neither has any reason to feel confident. That’s how the day started. In the end both lived up to the pressure.”

A wild card in the picture is the weather. It resulted in the men’s GS being canceled Friday, handing Ted Ligety an American record third GS crystal globe. But weather may be a factor in Saturday’s women’s GS.

“If the race gets canceled tomorrow, Riesch gets the globe by three points. Otherwise it’s a rock fight,” said Porino. “Riesch has been better than Vonn all year in GS right up to last weekend when Vonn was third. Whoever beats the other tomorrow goes home with the overall crystal globe. It simply doesn’t get tighter than this: five months, 18,000 miles, 12 countries and 20 resorts and some 50 miles of race course, and it’s likely going to come down to hundredths of a second. It’s madness.”

How close is it? Riesch was fourth, just a hundredth ahead of fifth. Without that hundredth, she would not be in the lead. Similarly, Vonn was just a tenth away from finishing out of the points. It’s that close.

Ligety Establishing Legacy
Ted Ligety dominated GS all season long, winning the first three races and taking a commanding 77 point lead into the

World Cup Finals. While weather took the race, Ligety still earned the globe.

“There are certainly sexier ways to end the men’s GS season,” said Porino. “But no matter where they put the finish tape this year, Ted Ligety was going to break it first. No one will dispute he was the best GS skier with three consecutive World Cup wins and a World Championship gold.

“His wins set a new standard and on the toughest hills like Alta Badia and Val d’Isere where he left second place so far in the rear view mirror they were almost out of sight. He becomes the first American to win three GS globes putting him ahead of Phil Mahre and Bode Miller, two of the biggest names in the sport.”

The great Ingemar Stenmark has eight GS globes, with Michal Von Gruenigen and Alberto four each. But Ligety still has time.

“This is only his sixth year in the points,” said Porino. “He’s already one of the greatest GS skiers of all time. The only question now whether he can go from great to legend in the next half of his career.”

Universal Sports TV will wrap up its Audi FIS Alpine World Cup season long coverage Saturday with the women’s GS matchup between Vonn and Riesch at 2:30 p.m. and the men’s slalom at noon E.T.

Audi FIS Alpine World Cup Finals
Universal Sports TV Schedule
(times EDT; rebroadcasts in parentheses)

Friday, March 18
12:00 p.m. – Women’s slalom (11:30 p.m.)
2:30 p.m. – Men’s giant slalom **content TBD**(6:00 p.m., 11:30 p.m.)

Saturday, March 19
12:00 p.m. – Men’s slalom (8:00 p.m.)
2:30 p.m. – Women’s giant slalom (11:30 p.m.)