Lindsey Vonn has shifted focus away from winning the biggest annual prize in her sport to the continued pursuit of one of Alpine skiing’s hallowed records.
Vonn’s eyes are not set on the World Cup overall title this season, according to her Twitter account.
This is a big change from 18 months ago.
After the 2015 World Championships, the sport’s most recent major event, Vonn said her goal for the 2015-16 season was to grab her fifth career World Cup overall title, and her first since two major knee surgeries that forced her to miss the Sochi Olympics.
“My super-G and downhill’s in good form,” Vonn said in February 2015. “Now I’ve got to get my [giant slalom] back on track, and I’ll be competitive again for the overall title. That’s the goal.”
Vonn, 31, last captured the World Cup overall title in 2012. The overall title goes to the skier who compiles the most points based off finishes across all disciplines — downhill, super-G, giant slalom, slalom and super combined.
Vonn fought hard in the 2015-16 World Cup overall chase, even racing the day after a crash that caused three fractures in her left knee.
She eventually ended her season early due to the injuries, with eight races left and a slim 28-point lead over Swiss Lara Gut. Gut would easily pass Vonn for her first World Cup overall title.
“Because I am currently leading the Overall World Cup standings, this is one of the toughest decisions of my career,” Vonn said in March, according to her social media.
Vonn’s goal this season is instead to focus on accumulating race wins. Of course, wins play a strong role in the World Cup overall title picture, but so do top-30 finishes across the board.
If Vonn is not focusing on the overall, that would give her the luxury of skipping races where she could have a low finish (a giant slalom, slalom or combined), to devote her time to her best events — downhills and super-Gs. The season starts next month, but the first downhill and super-Gs are not until December.
The top overall title contenders — Gut and Austrian Anna Veith — have been known to race four of those five disciplines.
Vonn’s pursuit of wins includes the carrot of the career World Cup victories record of 86 held by Swedish legend Ingemar Stenmark.
Vonn won eight races in 2014-15 and nine races in 2015-16 to move to 76 career wins. If she stays healthy, Vonn can break Stenmark’s record before the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.
“The goal is definitely to make it to the next Olympics in South Korea in 2018, so that’s two more seasons, but I’m really hoping for three seasons, and I’ll tell you why,” Vonn said in June. “It’s because, in my final season, I would like to race against the men in one race.”
Whether Vonn makes it to the 2018-19 season, when she will be 34 years old, is largely dependent on her health, especially her knees.
“Eventually it will get to the point where, physically, there will only be one decision left to make,” she said in June. “So I have to just be prepared for that. I just hope it doesn’t come too soon.”
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