For Vonn, another milestone heading toward the biggest

Chicago Tribune

Lindsey Vonn won her 50th World Cup race Saturday - a milestone but not THE MILESTONE.

That will come when Vonn takes World Cup victory No. 63, making her the biggest winner among women in 45 years of World Cup alpine ski racing.

It could happen sometime next season at the rate Vonn is going.

And given that she still is only 27 and averaging more than nine wins per season over the last four seasons, Vonn has a shot at what has seemed like the untouchable World Cup victory record for all skiers - 86 by Sweden's Ingemar Stenmark.  (She already has nine wins this season with 17 races left.)

"Fifty World Cup wins is a huge mark for me in my career and more than I even thought possible," Vonn said Saturday.

Vonn simply is so much better than any other woman skiing the speed disciplines on the circuit today that U.S. ski publicists needed no chutzpah to send a Friday email with a link to an extensive statistical breakdown of her achievements to help media write about a "possible" 50th.

She got it with a daring downhillrun on a frigid day in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, where a temperature of minus-13 led racers to tape and mask their faces against frostbite, since wind chill at the speeds they travel would have been near minus-50.

Vonn survived a near crash midway through the race, hitting a bump, losing an edge and briefly putting a hip on the snow.  She trailed at three of the four intervals -- by .19 at the third - but wound up .41 seconds ahead of runner-up Nadja Kamer of Switzerland.

It tied her on the overall all-time list Italy's Alberto Tomba, third among men in career victories.

"Alberto Tomba has 50 wins, and he is one of the best skiers of all time."  Vonn said.  "I don't see myself in that way, but to know that I have accomplished so much to this point is amazing."

The Olympic gold medalist and world chamopion is third all-time among women in World Cup wins.  Ahead are Switzerland's Vreni Schneider (55) and Austria'sAnnemarie Moser-Proell (62).

 "I have a lot more to do," Vonn said.  "I have a lot more years of skiing in me."

That this may turn out to be the most successful season of Vonn's career - she won 11 races in 2009/10 - seems surprising, given the dramatic changes in her personal and professional life.

Vonn announced Thanksgiving weekend she and husband Thomas were divorcing.  He had been many things in her life - partner, coach and general factotum among them - for six years.

"I feel no matter what is going on in my personal life, I can go out to ski and clear my mind," Vonn said.  "Things on the personal front are not any better than a few months ago. . .but when I am skiing, I am enjoying it more than ever.

"I want to say I will never take back everything Thomas has done to help me in my career.  He has done a lot to help me.  We made a great team.

"But no matter who my coach is, I still know how to ski race."

The results say very few skiers ever have known how better.

Soon, Lindsey Vonn should be -- to quote Tina Turner - simply the best.  Better than all the rest.

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