ARE, SWEDEN — Lindsey Vonn once again etched her name in ski-racing’s record books on Friday, convincingly winning the giant slalom with two near-flawless runs while out-dueling her closest rival, Tina Maze of Slovenia, to clinch the fourth overall title of her career.
Vonn, 27, reaffirmed her status as the most decorated American ski racer ever with her 11th victory of the season at the northern Swedish resort of Are, earning another large crystal globe as overall World Cup champion.
“I don’t know what to say — I just wanted to have two really aggressive runs today. I have nothing to lose,” said an emotional Vonn in the finish area.
“I’m just having fun,” she said. “My sister is here and my teammates are so cool cheering me on at the finish. I’m just really, really excited.”
Entering the race with a commanding 494-point lead over Maze, Vonn increased the margin to an insurmountable 554 points with five races remaining. She becomes only the second woman in history to garner four season titles, coming closer to the mark of the Austrian Annemarie Moser-Pröll, who won six from 1971 through 1979.
Vonn, who lives in Vail, Colorado, equaled her tally of wins from 2010 with her 11th victory this winter despite coping with separating from her husband, Thomas Vonn, late in 2011. With strong performances in the slalom Saturday and at four races next week during the season finale in Schladming, Austria, Vonn could become the first woman to earn more than 2,000 points in a season.
“I have been thinking about the 2,000-point mark since about the St. Moritz races,” Vonn, said referring to her two victories at the Swiss resort in late January. “I am not focusing too much on it, but it is definitely in the back of my mind. This year the tech races have been going well, and now I am second in the giant slalom standings. To me, that is a huge accomplishment.”
Among women, the Croat Janica Kostelic has come the closest to the 2,000-point mark, amassing 1970 points in 2006. Hermann Maier of Austria is the only World Cup skier to reach the 2000-point barrier, scoring exactly that number during the 2000 season.
Vonn also secured her fifth consecutive downhill title last month in Sochi, Russia, at the 2014 Olympic venue. Moser-Pröll also won five straight downhill titles, from 1971 through ’75, and seven total. The Austrians Franz Klammer (1975-83) and Renate Götschl (1997- 2007) also attained five.
“It means a lot to me to be able to have the numbers that those legends of skiing have, but Moser-Pröll is the pinnacle of our sport and I have a ways to go before that,” said Vonn, who now needs 10 wins to tie the Austrian’s record of 62. “I’m just going to try to keep winning. Downhill is the most important title to me, other than the overall. Annemarie is above me — way above me.”
In early February, Vonn recorded her 50th victory — reaching the mark in less time than any female racer in history — with a downhill triumph on the Kandahar course in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. Her first win on tour came in December 2004, when she won a downhill in Lake Louise, Canada.
If Vonn can maintain her torrid pace in coming seasons, she could potentially match Moser-Pröll’s six overall titles before turning 30.
“Absolutely, if she stays healthy,” the U.S. head coach, Alex Hoedlmoser, said of Vonn’s chances of equaling or surpassing Moser-Pröll’s accomplishments. “The only thing that could stop her from breaking that record is if she got injured.”
“The achievement of Annemarie Moser-Pröll is something that is so far out there,” said Hoedlmoser, another Austrian. “Nobody would ever even think that anybody could get close, and now there is an athlete that can actually break that record.”
Moser-Pröll, 58, lives in Kleinarl, just south of Salzburg. She was only 17 when she captured her first overall title in 1971, the beginning of an illustrious career that culminated with an Olympic downhill gold medal at the 1980 Lake Placid Games.
“I think Lindsey trains very hard, has to be mentally very strong and she stands perfect on her skis,” said Moser- Pröll, who remains an avid follower of the sport. “I see the boundless will to win in Lindsey that I had also.”
“Today they have perfect equipment, the best technology and well-prepared race hills — when I started to race we had only one pair of skis each,” she said. “Times have changed, but not the will to win.”
Regarding whether she believes that Vonn will surpass her marks for total overall titles, downhill titles and victories, Moser-Pröll responded: “Yes. In any case, Lindsey is able to break the records. Records are here to be broken.”
Vonn has also locked up this season’s super combined title, is poised to secure the super-G title in Schladming, and remains mathematically alive in giant slalom also.
While in years past, her husband, Thomas — who also served as her coach, manager and advisor — traveled with her on tour, Vonn has been accompanied in Sweden by her younger sister Laura. At previous races this season, Vonn has also received moral support from her father, Alan Kildow, and stepmother.
Vonn is scheduled to start in the slalom Saturday in her quest to reach 2000 points, followed by the final four races of the season, which begin with the downhill Wednesday in Schladming.
“Only a couple more races left, then we’ll get to celebrate this year,” Vonn said.