VAL D’ISERE, France — Just four races back into her skiing career, Lindsey Vonn is on the verge of World Cup history.
After clinching a second straight win — and third consecutive podium — with a victory in the Dec. 20 Downhill, the 30-year-old American now has the chance to secure a 62nd career win in Sunday’s super-G and move level with Austrian great Annemarie Moser-Proll for all-time wins.
“I have to get there first. If it happens tomorrow, great,” said Vonn, a four-time World Cup champion. “I feel like I have been talking about (the record) for a long time now and, if I keep talking about it, I feel like it’s never going to happen.”
It would have been a distant dream one year ago, however, when she re-injured her troublesome right knee on the same Oreiller-Killy course in Val d’Isere and required surgery for the second time. The first knee operation came after she tore two ligaments following a spectacular fall at the world championships 10 months earlier.
Aside from one small wobble in the middle of the course, Vonn’s run on Dec. 20 was clean and she finished .19 seconds clear of early pace-setter Elisabeth Goergl of Austria and Viktoria Rebensburg of Germany, who tied for second.
“I trusted my body and my knee held up great,” Vonn said. “No problem, no pain, so all is good.”
Swiss skier Lara Gut placed 0.39 behind in fourth place, while overall leader Tina Maze of Slovenia finished half a second adrift in seventh.
After nearly two years without a victory, Vonn won a downhill at Lake Louise, Canada, two weeks ago and finished second in super-G the next day.
“It feels amazing. I was a bit nervous today as I made some mistakes in training. It’s tough when you only have one training run,” Vonn said. “I skied aggressively today. It was definitely tough as we had a lot more speed.”
Vonn was 0.11 seconds ahead of Goergl on the first time split, up to 0.36 on the second, lost a little time and then sped up again at the bottom.
As she crossed the line, Vonn leaned her head back, swung her right pole up in the air and then shook her head in relief, as if scarcely believing she’d won again. She then blew a kiss to the camera.
“In Lake Louise, I won so many times that some people automatically assume that I should win there,” Vonn said. “I already knew I could win here today. It was for other people to understand that I’m back to where I used to be.”
Prior to her success at Lake Louise, Vonn’s previous World Cup win was a giant slalom in January 2013 in Maribor, Slovenia, — and this was only her eighth race since then.
After her injury at the worlds, Vonn then tried to get back in time for the Sochi Olympics — only to tear one of the reconstructed ligaments in a training crash.
Then, four days before Christmas, she sprained her MCL in Val d’Isere and needed surgery again.
Meanwhile, it was the first podium of the season for both Goergl and Rebensburg — who also secured her first career podium in downhill. “I think I’m going to keep smiling until I go to bed,” the 25-year-old Rebensburg said.
The 33-year-old Goergl had not been on the podium since finishing second in downhill at Lenzerheide, Switzerland, in March.
Overall, Maze leads with 596 points; Austria’s Anna Fenninger is second with 327, while Vonn moves up to third with 312.
(JEROME PUGMIRE, AP Sports Writer)