A dream weekend for Lindsey at Cortina d’Ampezzo

Vail’s Lindsey Vonn enjoyed one of her most exciting weekends as a racer in the past days at Cortina d’Ampezzo as she became the most successful athletes on the women World Cup tour dominating the last two speed events hold on Sunday and Monday on the spectacular “Olimpia della Tofana” run – first her third downhill of the season on Sunday followed on Monday by her first Super-G in more than two years.

The entire ski circuit had been aware for a long time of what an exceptional athlete the Minnesota-born Olympic champion was. With her 63rd World Cup victory conquered in Italy in front of her parents Alan and Linda and her boyfriend Tiger Woods who made the trip especially from Floriday during the night, Lindsey Vonn simply made history and is now hoping for her nation to be aware of it.

“America is definitely record centric, hopefully, it will bring more attention to the sport,” she told the press afterwards. “It would be good, going into the upcoming World Championships, that it creates more TV interest and more interest with the general public,” the American also said after her record victory. “Anyway I try to promote alpine ski racing. I think it’s an amazing sport.”
Lindsey Vonn, who has been racing for fifteen years on the World Cup tour surely made an amazing contribution to it. With the World Championships at home in Vail and Beaver Creek in two weeks, alpine skiing should at long last receive the credit it only receives in the U.S. every four years for the Winter Olympics.

Oddly enough it is already in Italy that the 14-year-old Lindsey Kildow made her first international impression by winning the Trofeo Topolino, a contest for young ski hopefuls. With a ski-mad father, a successful lawyer who moved the family from the small town of Burnsville and its small ski resort of Buck Hill in Minnesota to Vail, Colorado, in order to develop his daughter’s talent, her progression was steady if unspectacular.

Lindsey, a promising 6th in the Olympic combined at Salt Lake City in February 2002 at only 17, made her first mark in slaloms but downhill was always at the back of her mind as her teenage idol was Picabo Street, the 1996 downhill World Champion and 1998 Super-G Olympic gold medalist. Little did the promising young woman know at the time that she would one day surpass her model and be the first US female to clinch the downhill Olympic gold medal in Whistler Mountain in 2010 after grabbing two gold medals at the 2009 Ski Worlds at Val d’Isère, in France.

“When I started racing on the World Cup tour, my goal was to win one race, and I started to believe in my chances after reaching my first podium here in 2004,” she commented. “Now I belong to the history of the sport. It’s difficult to put into words what it means to me. As a child I was dreaming about becoming once the most successful ski racers ever yet it was just a dream then. It’s only when I reached the mark of 50 wins a few years ago that I began to believe in my chances to go for that amazing record of 62 victories.”

The 63 mark she achieved on Monday is far from her only record though. Since her first World Cup podium, also in Cortina 11 years ago, Vonn collected a record 17 World Cup globes including four “big ones” for the overall World Cup standings in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2012. Annemarie Moser-Proell captured a total of six overall titles in the 1970s. Lindsey is also one of only five skiers to have won a World Cup events in all five alpine skiing disciplines.

Yet in spite of her constant smile and apparent good humor, Lindsey Vonn has not always had it easy. In 2006, before the Turin Olympic downhill race, she suffered a severe crash that prevented her to train properly before the competition yet she fought hard to defend her chances for a medal on race day. Despite her pains, Lindsey finished a strong 8th . More than once, she suffered spectacular crashes as she mostly moves with great determination while steaming down the World Cup slopes.

The worst was to come in 2013 at Schladming when she fell in the Super-G competition and badly injured her right knee. She had to go through two successive knee operations afterwards, forcing her to skip the 2014 Olympics at Sochi and go thru a one-year break to fully rebuild herself. She trained amazingly hard last summer to get back in shape and recover most of her blistering form from past seasons.

The recovery was as swift as it was impressive as she won only her second race back in the World Cup – in her favorite spot of Lake Louise last December. Two more downhill wins in Val d’Isère and in Cortina on Sunday put the all-time record within reach. And in spite of the pressure of the media constantly referring to that 63rd win, she finally made it.

“I felt no pressure today, I was really loose,” she explained after her Super-G race. “I was feeling much better than yesterday because I could fully focus on my skiing. Everybody had been mentioning the record for so long that it definitely puts pressure on you,” she added.
And now, what next? “64, I guess! The record was in Annemarie’s hands for so long. Thirty-five years is a long time. I hope it stays with me a little while,” she answered when asked that question. But Moser-Proell herself is certain much more is coming. “She will improve many more records, including some of mine,” the Austrian, now 62, told journalists last Sunday.

Her thrilling performances achieved at Cortina d’Ampezzo will now allow her to perfectly prepare the Worlds at Beaver Creek in two weeks. “It’s such a wonderful feeling to compete soon in my home town, it’ll be so exciting as my entire family will be there,” she said. “It’s an amazing chance for an athlete to be able to compete in front of his or her home crowd. I like the courses there a lot, they are really challenging… It’s pretty amazing when I think I have been a course worker at Beaver Creek during the 1999 Worlds… I’m so happy – also to know that I’ll fight for medals there.”



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