This female athlete just made history, twice. American World Cup alpine skiier Lindsey Vonn tied the world record for most World Cup races won on Sunday, a title that was shared by legendary Austrian skiier Annemarie Moser-Pröll. But that record was shattered on Monday, when Vonn won her 63rd World Cup race and broke Moser-Pröll's 35-year-long record of 62 World Cup wins. Vonn glided to a landslide victory, despite facing mounting media pressure to break the record in recent weeks. And it was just the latest in a long series of achievements that cement the fact that Vonn is the most successful American ski racer in history.
Vonn won her 63rd World Cup race on Monday, executing a perfect run in the super-G down the Olimpia delle Tofane course in Cortina D'Ampezzo, Italy. She won with a significant lead of 0.85 of a second ahead of Austria's Anna Fenninger. Coming in third place was Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein. The day prior, Vonn had already tied the record for 62 victories when she won the downhill competition. Now she's broken the all-time women's record and the only person in history who has won more is Ingemar Stenmark, a male former World Cup alpine ski racer from Sweden.
When asked about what winning her 63rd World Cup race meant to her, Vonn told NBC's Today show:
63 wins, I think that speaks a lot about the consistency of my career and the longevity of it.
It seemed like just yesterday when the achievement of 63 World Cup wins was still a distant dream. In 2012, Vonn's U.S. head coach, Alex Hoedlmoser, told the New York Times:
The achievement of Annemarie Moser-Pröll is something that is so far out there. Nobody would ever even think that anybody could get close, and now there is an athlete that can actually break that record.
Even Moser-Pröll herself had the premonition that Vonn would one day take her title. She told the Times:
I think Lindsey trains very hard, has to be mentally very strong and she stands perfect on her skis — I see the boundless will to win in Lindsey that I had also.
Vonn has proven her "boundless will to win" not only by smoking the competition, but by overcoming some life-changing obstacles that ultimately only strengthened her resolve.
In February 2013, Vonn crashed during the super-G race at the 2013 World Championships in Schladming, Austria, tearing the ACL and MCL in her right knee and also sustaining a lateral tibial plateau fracture. Despite the injury, Vonn still trained for the Winter Olympics in Sochi the following year, but unfortunately reinjured her knee in a training accident that November.
Injury hurdles often prompt some athletes to take long hiatuses or even throw in the towel permanently, but Vonn got back in the sport as soon as she could. She told the Today show:
The last two years have been really hard. I fought so hard to come back for Sochi, and then to have blown out my knees again was heartbreaking, but I never gave up. I kept believing in myself.Sounds like that "boundless will" that Moser-Pröll had mentioned, the same will that has made Vonn the most decorated skier in U.S. history. Besides the newly shattered record, Vonn has made the history books several times already and won numerous top accolades.
At the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Vonn became the first U.S. female to win a gold medal in downhill skiing. Vonn also won two World Championship gold medals in 2009. As if that weren't enough, Vonn is also one of two female skiiers in the world to win four World Cup championships and one of six women to win World Cup races in all five disciplines of alpine skiing.
I'm so happy to have finished the weekend with win No. 63. My family and Tiger is here. It's a really, really special day.Images: Getty Images (4)