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World Cup titles in the balance ahead of season finale

Lindsey Vonn in Switzerland last week
American skier Lindsey Vonn is guaranteed the downhill title and holds the overall women's lead

By Ollie Williams

Both the men's and women's overall World Cup titles remain up for grabs as top alpine skiers prepare for their season finale in Germany.

The Bavarian town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen will play host to four deciding races between 10 and 13 March.

American Lindsey Vonn, Olympic downhill champion, is set to win the women's title but is not certain of victory.

The race for the men's overall title is far more open, with Austria's Benjamin Raich holding a narrow lead.

With 100 points awarded for each World Cup race victory, 32-year-old Raich, who failed to win a medal at February's Vancouver Winter Games, stands 46 points ahead of Switzerland's Carlo Janka in second place.

Janka, who took the men's giant slalom gold medal last month, is 127 points ahead of fellow countryman Didier Cuche, another athlete who failed to capture medals at the Games.

By contrast, 25-year-old Vonn holds a commanding 245-point lead over double Olympic gold-medallist Maria Riesch of Germany. The contest is effectively a two-horse race, with Riesch 324 points clear of third-placed Anja Paerson.

Alongside the overall titles, the final four races in Garmisch will also decide the World Cup champions in each of the individual disciplines.

Alpine skiing's "crystal globe" World Cup trophy
Overall: To be decided. Lindsey Vonn has hefty lead in women's contest, Benjamin Raich leads Carlo Janka and Didier Cuche in men's event
Downhill: Already won by Cuche and Vonn
Super-G: Women's won by Vonn, men's to be decided
Slalom & giant slalom: To be decided in Garmisch

The men's and women's downhill titles are both settled: neither Cuche nor Vonn can now be caught, with leads of 148 and 189 points respectively.

Vonn has also secured the super-G title by a considerable distance, but the remaining events are too close to call, given the possibility - realised several times at the Olympics - of the favourites crashing out and failing to score.

Austria's Michael Walchhofer leads the men's super-G by 46 points over Norwegian Aksel Lund Svindal. Canadian Erik Guay, who won his first career World Cup super-G race in Norway earlier this month, lies 23 points further back in third.

American Ted Ligety, winner of a 2008 World Cup trophy - dubbed a "crystal globe" - in giant slalom, leads the event once again heading into the final race of the 2010 season. Ligety sits 43 points ahead of Italy's Massimiliano Blardone, with Austrian duo Raich and Marcel Hirscher not far behind.

In the men's slalom, Austrian Reinfried Herbst and Frenchman Julien Lizeroux will battle it out for the crystal globe, as Austrian skiers attempt to make up for a poor display on the Olympic slopes.

Andrea Fischbacher was the lone Austrian to win gold at the 2010 Winter Games, securing the women's super-G title, However, the World Cup honour in that event has already gone to Vonn, with Fischbacher left to fight Swiss pair Fabienne Suter and Nadia Styger for second place.

Wed 10 Mar: Downhill
Thu 11 Mar: Giant slalom
Fri 12 Mar: Super-G
Sat 13 Mar: Slalom

Instead, Kathrin Zettel is the only Austrian woman in with a chance of World Cup honours.

The 23-year-old, who narrowly missed a medal in the giant slalom and super-combined in Whistler, will have to come from behind to beat German competitors in both the women's slalom and giant slalom if she is to lift a crystal globe.

Kathrin Hoelzl leads Zettel by 26 points in the giant slalom, while the slalom is led by Riesch, 23 points ahead of Zettel. France's Sandrine Aubert has an outside shot at that title, trailing Riesch by a further 49 points.

The downhill race at Garmisch will be held on Wednesday 10 March, followed by the giant slalom on Thursday, the super-G on Friday and the slalom on Saturday.

There are no combined races scheduled for Garmisch - Raich finishes the season heading the men's combined discipline, and Vonn tops the women's combined standings.

Chemmy Alcott, Britain's highest-ranked alpine skier, currently lies 33rd in the women's overall standings.

Alcott, who failed to break into the top 10 in any of her Winter Olympic events, previously told reporters she had "no money" with which to finish the World Cup season and was unsure of her future in the sport.

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see also
Victory gives Vonn downhill title
06 Mar 10 |  Other sport...
Abandoned race hands Vonn title
05 Mar 10 |  Other sport...
Alcott admits doubts over future
26 Feb 10 |  Alpine skiing
Riesch wins second gold in slalom
26 Feb 10 |  Alpine skiing
Fischbacher wins chaotic super-G
20 Feb 10 |  Alpine skiing
GB Olympic bosses to help skiers
05 Feb 10 |  Alpine skiing

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