By Brian Homewood
GARMISCH-PARTERNKIRCHEN, Germany (Reuters) - Lindsey Vonn's bid for a third successive overall World Cup title was hit when she crashed out of the giant slalom on Thursday and Maria Riesch kept her outside hopes alive.
Double Olympic champion Riesch, the only skier who can catch Vonn, finished third to follow her win in the previous day's downhill.
American Vonn now leads by 165 points with Friday's Super G and Saturday's slalom left in the season. One hundred points are awarded to the winner of each race.
Slovenia's Tina Maze won on Thursday and Kathrin Hoelzl of Germany finished second to clinch the season's giant slalom title.
Vonn spun off around a quarter of way down the Kandahar course on her first run, got up and skied down the rest of the course.
The U.S. team's medical director Richard Quincy said Vonn suffered a small bone bruise on the outside of her right knee but expected to be able to race on Friday.
"I'm going to race tomorrow," Vonn said in a statement. "I'm not going to back down from this and at this point, I'm used to fighting through pain.
If Vonn cannot ski in the final two races then she will have to sit out and hope Riesch does not overhaul her total.
Riesch is in a rich vein for form and, on her home turf, looks capable of achieving the one first and one second place she would need in the final races to pip the American.
Vonn, who overcame injury problems to win the Olympic downhill title in Vancouver last month, is bidding to become the first woman since Austria's Petra Kronberger to win three successive overall Alpine world titles.
It had looked a formality at the start of the Garmisch meeting, which concludes the World Cup season.
Vonn could have clinched the downhill on Wednesday with the right combination of results but she finished second behind Riesch, only the second time she has failed to win in eight World Cup downhills this season.
Vonn has already won this year's downhill and super-G World Cup titles.
(Editing by Justin Palmer)