A dramatic season-ending crash for Maria-Hoefl Riesch on Wednesday denied Alpine skiing one of its two overall title duels at the World Cup Finals.
Hoefl-Riesch's exit — from the downhill course into safety nets, then airlifted from the slope by helicopter — left Anna Fenninger of Austria favourite to win her first giant crystal trophy one month after becoming an Olympic champion.
Fenninger's sixth-place finish in the final downhill built a slim 11-point lead in the standings over the 2011 champion with three races remaining.
Hoefl-Riesch will miss them all after sustaining upper leg, elbow and shoulder injuries on her left side.
"It's tough," Germany women's head coach Thomas Stauffer said. "We were up and running for the World Cup all season and at the end you can't battle for it."
"I hope Maria can race again," Fenninger said before the extent of her rival's injuries were known. "My focus is on the next two races. What she is doing, I can't change."
Hoefl-Riesch's bitter-sweet day started atop the standings and got better minutes before entering the start house. Fenninger's failure to lead assured the 29-year-old German of her first season-long downhill title after six years of domination by Lindsey Vonn, the injured and absent American.
Hoefl-Riesch crashed midway down the bumpy course when her skis slipped beneath her at a sharp right-hand turn, sending her sliding off course.
The downhill trophy ceremony was staged immediately after the race with an empty top step on the podium and the German anthem playing as the helicopter landed nearby. Hoefl-Riesch was driven to a nearby hospital for checks.