Lindsey Vonn going for more records

March 17th, 2010

The picture was pretty impressive – sitting on the winners’ podium after the slalom races, Lindsey Vonn displayed all her gold medals and crystal globes clinched in recent seasons in the speed events and in combined, over half a dozen in total including her four from this winter!

The ski star from Vail, Colorado, definitely put her mark on the 2009/2010 World Cup season with her eleven triumphs and her third consecutive Overall crown conquered with the imposing amount of 1’671 points gained during her five months of racing - 117 points less than in 2009!

Only handful athletes scored more wins during their careers - starting with Austria’s skiing legend Annemarie Moser-Proell who collected 62 wins in the four ‘Classic’ events from 1970 to 1980 as well as six Overall titles. Annemarie, simply yet respectfully called ‘La Proell’ by the French skiers who failed to beat her after having dominated the 1960s as a team, set other impressive records including the numbers of consecutives wins in downhill over two seasons – 11 in 1973-74 – during some of her greatest years.

Germany’s Katja Seizinger, a triple Olympic champion and double Overall World Cup winner, is just ahead of Vonn with her 36 wins. Eight-time gold medal winner Anja Pärson has 41 World Cup wins, Austria’s Renate Götschl who retired last summer to become a mother this winter, has 46 and Switzerland’s Vreni Schneider 55. Schneider also won the big globe three times as well as half a dozen of gold medals. She won 14 events during her amazing 1988/89 season.

Five more years on the tour for Lindsey Vonn

To approach some of them may well become the remaining goals to reach for Lindsey Vonn who also has achieved her personal ‘hat-trick’ this year with her superb Olympic triumph after clinching two gold medals at the 2009 FIS World Championships at Val d’Isère.

“I plan to compete five more years now, I could end my career in 2015 at the World Championships if they take place at Vail Valley,” Vonn explained at Garmisch-Partenkirchen. “I’m looking forward to a nice break now, but then it’s back to work in spring with the objective to keep on improving my level. I think there is still much room for me to progress in the technical events and even in downhill and Super-G,” she added.

“To win Olympic gold was my highest priority this winter so it was not always easy to remain fully focused for the entire season. I also suffered too many crashes and DNF’s. I have to be more consistent in the technical events and will study a few technical solutions there,” she also said.

To capture three consecutive Overall titles is pretty remarkable as only two other racers managed to achieve this feat on the women’s tour since 1967 – ‘La Proell’ won five of them from 1971 to 1975 and another one in 1979 – while 1992 slalom and combined Olympic champion Peter Kronberger got three big globes from 1990 to 1992. Maria Riesch will try hard now to end that series next year!

1970 points for Janica Kostelic in 2006!

Winning three ‘disciplines’ titles’ as Phil Mahre did in 1983 – apparently only a few ‘insiders’ remembered the US champion from White Pass also claimed the slalom, giant slalom and combined Cups along his last Overall title that year – is also pretty good for Lindsey Vonn even though there were not Super-G or combined cups awarded in the early years of the World Cup. And no combined trophy was handed out later on during the 1990s when top champions as Vreni Schneider, Pernilla Wiberg or Katja Seizinger dominated the field. So it’s better not to compare the achievements of the different Overall winners on that level.

In March 1997, Pernilla Wiberg captured at 27 her second Overall title after winning nine events in four disciplines – one downhill, one combined, two Super-G’s, and five slaloms - getting a total of 18 podium finishes during the whole winter. The tough Swede scored 1960 points at the end of her campaign! Janica Kostelic came close to that impressive series in 2006 when she ended 17 times among the top-3 –yet in all five disciplines - to set the women record of 1970 points – only 30 less than Hermann Maier’s ‘magic’ mark of 2000 points established in March 2000. The ‘Croatian Sensation’ remains the only skiers having celebrated victories in all disciplines of modern ski racing, including in Super-combined, during the same season!

This year, Lindsey Vonn made it to 17 podiums – one more than last winter – in four disciplines. She’ll need to work hard on her consistency and efficiency in the speed events to remain out of reach of her friend Maria Riech in coming years. The German got 14 podiums this season but in all five disciplines yet she won three times. Being a strong ‘all-rounder’ able to win many races is extremely difficult nowadays and Maria Riesch as well as Vonn deserve great credit for trying so hard to be complete skiers.

Interestingly enough, Moser-Proell collected 16 podiums in only 26 events back in 1975 and finished 23 times among the top-10. The seasons were much shorter in those years and included a two-week break left for the National Championships in February! The remarkable skier from Kleinarl could have won more races with similar World Cup calendars as now – making it even more difficult to compare her to racers of later generations.

“I don’t think I can get close to her, that’s pretty amazing,” said Lindsey Vonn at Garmisch-Partenkirchen when she was informed that the former Austrian star has done so well over thirty years ago. “To win one or two more Overall titles could be possible but not three more, it’s so intense now and there are so many good skiers around,” she added.

Yet the now 25-year-old American will certainly give it a try – and who knows what can happen in the coming five or six years!