CORTINA D’AMPEZZO, Italy (AP) – In three weeks, the only things that will matter for Lindsey Vonn will be gold, silver or bronze.
Saturday, however, was a day for milestones.
Vonn made it five wins in five downhills this season. Her 30th World Cup victory tied her with Croatia’s Janica Kostelic for eighth place on the career list and nearly halfway to Austrian leader Annemarie Moser-Proell’s 62 wins.
“It’s crazy! When she was dominating the World Cup I thought she was unbeatable,” Vonn said, referring to Kostelic. “She was so good – too good – and I don’t really see myself as the person that’s got the same amount of wins that she has. She is just as big a legend in ski racing as Moser-Proell or (Renate) Goetschl. She’s a huge name.”
Goetschl is third on the list at 46 and holds the record for wins at one venue – 10 in Cortina. Vonn also won Friday’s super-G and now has three victories at the most prestigious stop on the women’s circuit.
Bothered throughout her career by injuries, Kostelic retired after the 2005-06 season at 24. Vonn is 25 and has no plans of stopping anytime soon.
“Just knowing that people have had that many wins makes it more inspiring,” Vonn said. “You know that people have done it before and so it gives you hope that you can do it, too. It’s good to know there’s something to keep striving for.”
Only one more stop remains on the women’s calendar before the Vancouver Olympics open Feb. 12. If Vonn wins the downhill in St. Moritz, Switzerland, next week, she’ll head to Canada on a six-race winning streak in the discipline – seven if her victory in the final downhill of last season is included.
“I just have to keep executing, stick with the same rhythm, have the same approach and just try not to let the nerves and pressure get the best of me,” Vonn said.
Vonn sped down the Olympia delle Tofane course in 1 minute, 37.70 seconds. Maria Riesch of Germany finished second, 0.42 seconds behind, with Sweden’s Anja Paerson and Switzerland’s Nadja Kamer tied for third, 0.86 seconds back.
Another American, Julia Mancuso, matched Vonn through the first checkpoint and was on course for her first podium finish in nearly two years through the final interval before losing nearly half a second on the bottom. Still, she finished eighth for her best result of the season.
Vonn was the last top-ranked racer to start and was slightly slower than Riesch through the first two checkpoints. But Vonn skied the flatter, bottom section of the twisting layout nearly half a second faster than her German rival and good friend.
Thomas Vonn – her husband, chief adviser and a former U.S. skier – attributed the slow start to an equipment choice.
“It’s icy on the top and aggressive on the bottom,” he said. “You generally need really sharp edges on the injection on the top, and we decided to go with a little bit duller edge, so maybe that would be an advantage through the lower parts of the course. “So she gave up a little time on the top and then it paid out across the bottom flat.”
Paerson was fastest on the top but lost time in the middle of the course. The Swedish standout is fourth on the career list with 40 wins but hasn’t won this season. She comes from the same town above the Arctic Circle – Tarnaby – as the great Ingemark Stenmark. Stenmark holds the men’s – and outright – time record with 86 World Cup wins.
“People were thinking halfway through my career that I could beat Ingemar, but it takes so much to win a race. It’s so much effort,” Paerson said. “I’ve been doing this for 323 World Cup starts or something. There comes a day when you’re not as excited as you were for the first race or the third. It shows you’re human.”
Vonn, meanwhile, has been looking machinelike.
She has eight wins this season, putting her within one victory of her personal mark from a year ago. The weekend racing concludes Sunday with a giant slalom, the only event in which Vonn has never finished on the podium.
“I have absolutely no expectations for tomorrow’s race,” Vonn said. “Every time that I think I’m skiing well I don’t finish. I’m just going to try to get to the finish no matter what. And if I’m fast great, and if I’m not it’s been a great weekend either way.”