Lindsey Vonn ties World Cup titles record with 67th win under pressure (video)

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Lindsey Vonn felt pretty nervous as she wiggled her hands on her ski poles at the start gate Thursday morning.

“I knew I had to risk everything if I wanted to get the title,” she said. “I risked it all.”

Vonn came through, capturing a record-tying 19th World Cup season title by earning her record-extending 67th World Cup victory, a super-G at the World Cup Finals in Meribel, France.

Why the risk?

Austrian Anna Fenninger grabbed a large lead, .71 of a second, eight minutes before Vonn stepped up to the start gate. Vonn knew she could only win the season super-G title, accumulating results since December, if she finished ahead of Fenninger, the hottest skier on tour over the last month.

Before both of their runs, Vonn was shown on camera among a group of people watching a TV screen as Fenninger prepared to race.

“[Fenninger] definitely put a lot of pressure on me,” Vonn, who also bagged the downhill title Wednesday, said in a finish-area interview. “I knew she was leading when I was at the top. … I just attacked, and I had nothing to lose.”

Of course, Vonn knows that every time she skis, descending 70mph on a right knee twice surgically repaired in the last two years, she has plenty to lose. (Vonn talked more about risk, fear and her future here)

On Thursday, Vonn crossed the finish line after 67 seconds of all-out skiing, saw she had overtaken Fenninger — easily by .49 — raised her arms, screamed, slid to a stop and fell to the snow, smiling in celebration.

“I really like the high-pressure situations,” Vonn said. “Sometimes when it demands strong skiing, then I can bring it out.”

Fenninger, in the leader’s box, clapped politely.

Vonn notched her eighth victory of the season and joined Swedish legend Ingemar Stenmark as the only skiers to reach 19 season titles across all disciplines and the overall. She won’t be able to go for No. 20 until next season but is expected to race again in Meribel, in the giant slalom Sunday.

“Things have gone a lot better this year than I ever could have anticipated,” Vonn said. “I wasn’t really sure where I would stack up being gone for almost two years.”

Vonn won her third straight race Thursday, her first winning streak since December 2012, two months before she crashed at the 2013 World Championships, requiring the first of two major knee surgeries that kept her from the Sochi Olympics.

”I haven’t had any problems [with my knee], really, since Beaver Creek [World Championships in February],” Vonn said. “It’s been hard to maintain the strength on my right leg. … I’m still atrophied from the two surgeries.”

She also took the super-G season title for a fifth time, tying a record shared by German Katja Seizinger, Austrian Hermann Maier and Norwegian Aksel Lund Svindal.

Vonn also made a World Cup podium for the 113th time, tying Austrian Annemarie Moser-Proell‘s women’s record. Stenmark made 155 podiums.

“I solidified to myself and to everyone that I’m back,” Vonn said. “I’m not going anywhere.”

She did so after missing most of the previous season and not returning to skiing training until October.

“It’s been up and down [this season],” said Vonn, who was disappointed to come away from the World Championships near her Vail, Colo., home with one bronze medal. “I just don’t have that much training. … When I have training and I have confidence, then I ski like I did this week, confident and I have power in my skiing. Sometimes I just was a little bit off rhythm and couldn’t quite find my form. So I think next year, when I can actually prepare normally, I will be much more consistent.”

Vonn’s goal next season? Win her fifth World Cup overall title.

That crystal globe trophy will go to either Fenninger or Tina Maze this weekend. Fenninger, trying to become the first woman since Vonn to repeat as overall champion, leads by 32 points with two races to go.

Vonn, while holding the women’s World Cup wins record, is now 19 victories shy of Stenmark’s overall World Cup record of 86 first-place finishes. If she wins eight races each of the next three seasons, as she did this season, she would pass Stenmark during the 2018 Olympic season.

“It just seems … all of his records are just not attainable,” Vonn said. “Mathematically, it’s definitely possible. … I feel like it’s a little bit too far away to start thinking about that right now.”

Earlier Thursday, Canadian Dustin Cook notched his first World Cup victory in the men’s super-G. Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud had already clinched the season title. Two-time Olympic medalist Andrew Weibrecht was the only U.S. finisher in 15th.

The World Cup Finals continue with a team event Friday. Mikaela Shiffrin will try to wrap up her third straight slalom season title Saturday. Vonn is expected to join Shiffrin in the giant slalom field Sunday.

Olympic champions among Sullivan Award finalists

In a tie, Wendy Holdener puts to rest a remarkable stat in Alpine skiing

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Swiss Wendy Holdener ended one of the most remarkable victory droughts in sports by tying for the win with Swede Anna Swenn Larsson in a World Cup slalom in Killington, Vermont, on Sunday.

Holdener, after 15 second-place finishes and 15 third-place finishes in her career, stood on the top step of a World Cup slalom podium for the first time. She shared it with Swenn Larsson, who had six World Cup slalom podiums before Sunday and also earned her first win.

They beat Austrian Katharina Truppe by .22 of a second combining times from two runs.

ALPINE SKIING: Full Results | Broadcast Schedule

Holdener, 29, previously won three World Cups in other disciplines, plus two world championships in the combined and Olympic and world titles in the team event.

“To be tied first when I came into the finish was such a relief,” Holdener said while shoulder to shoulder with Swenn Larsson. “On the end, it’s perfect, because now we can share our first win together.”

Mikaela Shiffrin had the best first-run time but lost her lead midway through the second run and finished fifth. Shiffrin, who won the first two slaloms this season last weekend, was bidding for a 50th World Cup slalom victory and a sixth win in six slaloms in Killington.

“I fought. I think some spots I got a little bit off my timing, but I was pushing, and that’s slalom,” she said before turning her attention to Holdener and Swenn Larsson. “It’s a pretty special day, actually.”

The women’s Alpine skiing World Cup moves next weekend to Lake Louise, Alberta, with two downhills and a super-G.

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Injured Ilia Malinin wins Grand Prix Finland, qualifies for Grand Prix Final

Ilia Malinin
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Ilia Malinin, competing “a little bit injured” this week, still won Grand Prix Finland and goes into the Grand Prix Final in two weeks as the world’s top-ranked male singles skater.

Malinin, who was second after Friday’s short program, landed four clean quadruple jumps in Saturday’s free skate to overtake Frenchman Kevin Aymoz.

Malinin, who landed a quad flip in competition for the first time, according to SkatingScores.com, also attempted a quad Axel to open his program, but spun out of the landing and put his hand down on the ice.

Malinin also won his previous two starts this season in come-from-behind fashion. The 17-year-old world junior champion became the first skater to land a clean, fully rotated quad Axel in September, then did it again in October at Skate America, where he posted the world’s top overall score this season.

Next, Malinin can become the second-youngest man to win the Grand Prix Final after Russian Yevgeny Plushenko. His biggest competition is likely to be world champion Shoma Uno of Japan, who like Malinin won both of his Grand Prix starts this fall. Malinin and Uno have not gone head-to-head this season.

Grand Prix Finland highlights air on NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET.

FIGURE SKATING: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Earlier, Japan’s Mai Mihara overtook world silver medalist Loena Hendrickx of Belgium to become the only woman to win both of her Grand Prix starts this season. Mihara prevailed by .23 of a point. The top three women this season by best total score are Japanese, led by a junior skater, 14-year-old Mao Shimada, who isn’t Olympic age-eligible until 2030.

Mihara and Hendrickx qualified for the Grand Prix Final, joining world champion Kaori Sakamoto and Rinka Watanabe, both of Japan, South Korean Yelim Kim and American Isabeau Levito, the world junior champion.

Italians Rebecca Ghilardi and Filippo Ambrosini won both pairs’ programs and qualified for their first Grand Prix Final.

Japan’s Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara and Americans Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier headline the Final. Both pairs won each of their Grand Prix starts earlier this fall. The Japanese have the world’s two best scores this season. The Americans are reigning world champions.

At least one Russian or Chinese pair made every Grand Prix Final podium — usually pairs from both countries — but neither nation competed in pairs this Grand Prix season. All Russian skaters are banned due to the war in Ukraine. China’s lone entry on the Grand Prix across all disciplines was an ice dance couple.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier improved on their world-leading score for this season in winning the ice dance by 17.03 points over Americans Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker. Both couples qualified for the Grand Prix Final in the absence of all three Olympic medalists this fall.

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