LENZERHEIDE, Switzerland (Reuters) - Maria Riesch edged back ahead of Lindsey Vonn in the race for the overall World Cup title with one race to go on Friday after beating the reigning champion in a slalom.
Riesch, attempting to win her first overall World Cup and stop Vonn claiming her fourth in a row, finished fourth while the American was 13th.
The difference was enough to put Riesch three points clear of Vonn -- a wafer-thin advantage considering 100 points are available for the winner of the final race of the season; Saturday’s giant slalom.
Whoever does better in the giant slalom will almost certainly win the win the title while Riesch could be champion without racing if more bad weather hits the Swiss resort and forces organizers to cancel the race.
Slovenia’s Tina Maze remained a distant third in the overall standings after winning the slalom race ahead of world champion Marlies Schild of Austria and Veronika Zuzulova of Slovakia.
It was the giant slalom world champion’s 10th win in a World Cup race and her first in a slalom.
Riesch, Olympic slalom champion, would have hoped to establish a bigger lead in a discipline where she has won seven World Cup races to Vonn’s two.
The German was second after the first leg but dropped two places after a mistake on the upper section of the course which nearly saw her miss a gate and get disqualified.
Riesch led the overall standings for most of the season, going more than 200 points clear of Vonn by the end of February, but the American clawed her way back and took the lead after Thursday’s downhill.
“I was a bit more relaxed today, maybe because I was not in the lead,” said Riesch. “The first run was great, the second a bit tougher and I made a couple of mistakes. It’s a shame I missed the podium by a couple of a hundredths of a second.”
Vonn’s hopes were hit when the super-G, one of her best disciplines, was called off due to the weather.
”Everything is possible on Saturday but we need to have the race,“ said Vonn. ”It was very disappointing and upsetting when the super-G was called off, that was my big hope.
“If there is no race tomorrow, it would be a catastrophe.”
Already unhappy with the cancellation of the super-G, the 26-year-old was far from pleased with the state of the course.
“I was a little bit disappointed with the course conditions,” said Vonn, whose second-leg time initially put her second before she slipped down the order.
“It was tough for the lower starters but that’s no excuse. It was peely and rutty on the lower half,” she said.
Editing by Alan Baldwin