Reporting from Whistler, Canada — The star in Alpine at the Vancouver Games now returns home to a hero's welcome after living up to enormous pre-Olympic expectations.
She is 25, tall, pretty, and speaks English.
Lindsey Vonn even gave her a hug at the end of Friday's women's slalom at Whistler Creekside.
Maria Riesch of Germany claimed her second gold medal of the Olympics with a two-run time of 1 minute 42.89 seconds. Riesch held a 0.40 lead after her morning run and then skied last in afternoon flip of the top 30. Her second-run time (52.14) was good enough to hold off Marlies Schild (silver) of Austria and Sarka Zahrobska (bronze) of the Czech Republic.
Riesch won in a blur and a blizzard and did it at the expense of crash-outs by her younger sister, Susanne, and her best friend on the World Cup circuit . . . Lindsey Vonn.
Susanne Riesch was fourth entering her afternoon run but couldn't make all her second-run gates.
Maria didn't know her sister's fate when she crossed the finish line, threw up her hands and collapsed with joy in the snow.
News of Susanne's "did not finish" was delivered to Maria by a German press agent, who said: "Now both Riesches are crying."
Maria felt exhilarated and empty -- in the same moment.
"I came in there and she was so sad, crying," Maria said of Susanne. "Of course, at this moment you feel sorry for her too."
On the last day of women's completion, Riesch snatched Alpine's unofficial Olympic MVP trophy away from Vonn, who skied out of her first run barely 20 seconds after her start.
Riesch adds slalom to the super combined title she won last week, and leaves Whistler with two gold medals to Vonn's one.
Vonn claimed gold in downhill and bronze in the super-G, but failed to finish three of her five races.
She entered Friday's race with a splint holding in place the right pinkie she broke in Wednesday's first giant slalom run.
Vonn came to Vancouver with a badly bruised right shin and a sore left wrist -- the result of a late-December crash.
The broken finger put her into Humpty Dumpty territory.
"My physio [therapist] is like, 'How many times do I have to put you together again?' " Vonn said.
It was hard for Vonn to narrow down the pain points, saying, "It was kind of my whole body was beaten down."
Ski racing can do that too you.
Sarah Schleper, whose 16th-place finish led the American slalom cause, cracked her chin open on a gate while warming up before her first run.
"I smelled my flesh burning," Schleper said. "That was kind of weird. I was like, 'What's that smell?' "
Schleper, 31, competed in her final Olympic race with a large bandage on her chin. She skied to ninth place in her morning run, only 0.43 out of the bronze spot, but a huge second-run mistake cost her any medal chance.
"I guess it wasn't meant to be for me," she said.
Vonn versus Riesch is definitely a "this-game-is-on" rivalry -- but radically different from Vonn versus American teammate Julia Mancuso.
Vonn and Mancuso don't have much of an off-slope relationship, while Vonn and Riesch have been fast friends since they met, at age 15, on the junior circuit.
Vonn speaks German, and Riesch speaks English. They were born a month apart. Vonn has shared Christmas dinner with Riesch's family in Garmisch, Germany.
They are neck and neck in the World Cup overall race, with Vonn holding the lead, 1,311 points to 1,174.
The title may be decided at the next month's World Cup finals in Riesch's hometown.
At Whistler, Germany won three of the five women's events, with 20-year-old Viktoria Rebensburg scoring a surprising win in Thursday's giant slalom.
Vonn's country, though, clinched the overall Alpine medals title with one men's race to go. The U.S. has a record eight medals, twice as many as Norway, Switzerland and Austria.
Riesch and Vonn both found what they were looking for . . . gold.
"I wish the day I won the gold medal," Vonn said, "I wish that day had taken a little bit longer."