When Lindsey Vonn returned to the Alpine skiing World Cup on Dec. 5, 2014, nearly two years and two major right knee surgeries since her last race win, she had 59 career victories and a realistic goal of breaking the women’s record of 62 career wins.
Vonn notched the 14th win of her comeback, in her 29th World Cup race of her comeback, in a super-G in Zauchensee, Austria, on Sunday. Full results are here.
Another 14 wins, and Vonn will break the overall World Cup record of 86 victories held by retired Swede Ingemar Stenmark.
That goal looks more realistic with every Vonn downhill or super-G victory by a comfortable margin, as was Sunday’s by seven tenths of a second over Swiss Lara Gut. (Though both Gut and Germany’s Viktoria Rebensburg were faster than Vonn at the final time split, about 20 seconds from the finish.)
“Pleasantly surprised when I got to the finish and saw I had such a big lead,” Vonn told media Sunday. “I think I skied a little bit conservatively in the middle [of the course].
“I executed the way I wanted to in the bottom, and that was the most important part of the course. I think I played my cards right.”
Vonn swept the weekend speed races after capturing Saturday’s two-run downhill by a full second. She’s won five of the season’s six downhills and super-Gs, and, dating to last season, has won the last eight World Cup speed races that she has finished.
There are 11 more speed races this season, the next a Jan. 23 downhill in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy.
Vonn, who has won at least six World Cup races in eight straight seasons (ignoring the 2013-14 season after her February 2013 World Championships crash), is on pace to break Stenmark’s record before the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympics.
“The best Lindsey ever? I am definitely stronger mentally and I think I am matching my form from the 2011-12 season,” Vonn said, according to The Associated Press. “The only difference is, I am a little bit older now, and a little bit smarter.”
Vonn captured the last of her four World Cup overall titles in 2011-12, her most successful season in victories (12) and World Cup points (1,980).
“It’s still sad, looking back at that injury,” Vonn said, according to the AP. “But I’ve learned a lot since. It was the hardest moment in my career, I lost so much time, I lost the [Sochi] Olympics. But I am proud of what I’ve done since.”
Injuries are always a concern, and Vonn did say Saturday that her knees hurt before a break in late December, about a month into her four-month season.
“I’m energized again,” Vonn said. “I feel really good mentally and physically. I think that showed in this weekend’s racing.”
More pressing than Stenmark’s mark is the biggest prize this season, the World Cup overall title. Vonn, looking to become the oldest World Cup overall champ ever, trails Gut by 38 points in the standings. That race likely won’t be decided until the World Cup Finals in March.