The 2011 Women’s World Cup Final: Justice Thwarted?

By John Fry

The overall World Cup championship was to have been determined by a single giant slalom race, to be held on Saturday, March 19th, 2011 in the 4,921-foot high Swiss ski resort of Lenzerheide. On the eve of the race, Germany’s Maria Riesch led America’s Lindsey Vonn by just three points.

Vonn and Riesch were the only two women racers who competed in all of last winter’s 33 World Cup women’s races. Vonn had recorded eight wins, Riesch six; each enjoyed 16 podium finishes. You can’t get much closer than that. The result of a whole season was to be determined by three minutes of highly technical skiing that would test the outer limits of mental strength. For the press and fans, the March 19 GS promised to be a race to be savored for all time.

So what happened?

The FIS canceled the race.

Weather, warm temperature, rain, fog, crusted and rotting snow would have made the GS course dangerous to ski. It was a sound decision for safety. The FIS awarded the 2011 overall World Cup to Riesch without her ever entering the starting gate.

Why wasn’t the race held later. . a postponement rather than a cancellation? And what of the fact that the FIS held a men’s slalom later in the day, and a team competition the next? And what of the reasoning of officials that the rules governing specialist titles, like season-long downhill champion, apply to the overall title? After all, only two racers were in a position to win it.

Finally, why did the FIS not stage for the world a two-woman Vonn-Riesch race the following week at a resort where the snow conditions were better? Such a race would have combined all of the elements of emotional suspense and of the athletes’ abilities to handle pressure that were originally contained in the canceled gs. Was justice served? Or outraged?


Want to read more? You’ve got options!

1. Join ISHA! Your annual print ($49) or digital ($29) membership includes six issues of Skiing History, starting with the current issue. Click here to get started, and select the best option for you under “Print & Digital Membership” or “Annual Auto Renewal.”

2. Sign up for a free six-month digital membership. Read every new issue online—plus back issues to 2009—for free! We’ll be in touch when your free trial membership is about to expire.

To get started, scroll down to “Digital Membership” and select “Six Month — Digital Only Membership.” Add the code FREETRIAL18 to your cart at checkout.

3. Or request a free print copy of the magazine mailed to your home. Sign up for your one-time free trial issue of Skiing History here:

(Due to the high cost of postage, this offer is limited to North American residents only.)