With a month still remaining in the 2011-12 Audi FIS Alpine World Cup, American alpine star Lindsey Vonn of Vail, Colo. clinched a record fifth straight downhill title with a third-place finish Saturday in Rosa Khutor near Sochi, Russia on the 2014 Olympic course. It was the 13th World Cup title of Vonn's remarkable career.
Sunday, unstable snow forced the cancellation of the third women's Audi FIS Alpine World Cup super combined—giving leader Vonn her 14th World Cup title and third straight in super combined.
In downhill, Vonn now holds a 231-point lead over Germany's Maria Hoefl-Riesch with just two events remaining (100 points per event). The 27-year-old U.S. Ski Team ace matched the mark of the legendary Austrian Annemarie Moser-Proell, who won five straight World Cup DH titles from 1971-75.
Vonn joined an elite group of only four athletes who have won five downhill titles including Moser-Proell (7 total), Austrian Renate Goetschl and Austrian Franz Klammer. The titles of Goetschl (1997-2007) and Klammer (1975-83) were not consecutive, though.
She said, "I'm excited I was able to secure the downhill title today. That's always a big goal of mine. It means a lot to me to be able to have the numbers that those legends of skiing have. But (Annemarie) Moeser-Proell is the pinnacle of our sport and I have a ways to go before that. I'm just going to try to keep winning. Downhill is the most important title to me other than the overall.
"Downhill is my favorite event and it's always nice to wrap up a title before the end of the season, before the last races."
Added U.S. head coach Alex Hoedlmoser, "It's an amazing performance to take five straight titles. I'm almost not able to explain it in words because it's an unbelievable achievement. I'm proud of her and our coaches. They're doing a fantastic job on a daily basis."
Vonn's achievement was part of an amazing day when American women rewrote the record books on the 2014 Olympic downhill course.
Vonn finished third, Julia Mancuso sixth, Stacey Cook ninth and Alice McKennis 10th to place four American women in the Audi FIS Alpine World Cup downhill top 10 for the first time in history.
The record-setting team performance, which included all Americans finishing in the top 30, happened at Rosa Khutor Resort—alpine host of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.
The last time U.S. women placed four in a World Cup top 10 was March 17, 1985 during a giant slalom at Waterville Valley, N.H. This year, led by Vonn, the U.S. women now lead Austria in the downhill rankings by 473 points.
Vonn said, "Any one of the girls on our team could have one this race. Our speed group is incredibly strong and we have been the past few years. It says a lot about how hard we work and how much we love ski racing. It's a great group to be around and we all support each other."
Hoedlmoser said, "I'm proud of this entire group. We had four girls in the top 10 on the Olympic hill and this shows that we're on track for 2014. We have a pretty good chance on this hill and we're going to do everything we can to medal here."
In her quest for the overall World Cup season title, Vonn now leads by a comfortable 448 points. She is trying to take sole possession of second place in all-time titles with four. Austria's Moser-Proell leads with six titles from 1971-79, while Vonn is tied with three others in second place, with three.
Here are World Cup standings and top Americans after the three events (2 men, 1 women) at Sochi and in Bulgaria last weekend:
Women: 1—Lindsey Vonn (USA) 1,442 points. 2—Tina Maze (Slov.) 994. 3—Maria Hoefl-Riesch (Germ.) 956. 4—Elisabeth Goergl (Aust.) 799. 5—Anna Fenninger (Aust.) 723. 6—Julia Mancuso (USA) 622.
Men: 1—Ivica Kostelic (Cro.) 1,043 points. 2—Marcel Hirscher (Aust.) 1,025. 3—Beat Feux (Switz.) 973. 4—Aksel Lund Svindal (Nor.) 741. 5—Didier Cuche (Switz.) 661. 8—Ted Ligety (USA) 618, trails the GS standings 465-384 to Hirscher. 9—Bode Miller (USA) 612.
Solid slaloms in Bulgaria
In a World Cup giant slalom Saturday at Bansko, Bulgaria, Ted Ligety, 27, of Park City, Utah survived a near crash in his second run dropping him from first to 27th on the day and out of the lead of the giant slalom standings for the first time this season.
In a stumble he missed a gate that whipped him and cut his face. Ligety hiked uphill to navigate the gate and stay in the race, leading to his finish seven seconds back. Austrian Marcel Hirscher won to jump 81 points in front of Ligety with three giant slalom races remaining in the season. Ligety had previously led the World Cup giant slalom standings all season.
On Sunday, Nolan Kasper of Warren, Vt. and Ligety finished 6-7 in a World Cup slalom at Bansko. Kasper, standing 23rd after the first run, used a lightning second run to climb the standings while the slalom top-10 finish was the second straight for Ligety.
Austrian Marcel Hirscher achieved the weekend sweep at Bansko and is 18 points off the overall lead of Croatian Ivica Kostelic. Leading in both the slalom and overall standings, Kostelic is currently injured and did not compete in Bulgaria.