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Rediff.com  » Sports » Tiger's girl is most successful female athlete in Alpine skiing

Tiger's girl is most successful female athlete in Alpine skiing

January 20, 2015 10:56 IST

‘When I started Alpine skiing, my goal was to win one race. Now I belong to the history of the sport’

America is definitely 'record centric'

‘Tiger doesn't need inspiration from me’

Lindsey Vonn of the USA

Lindsey Vonn of the USA celebrates during the Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup Women's Super-G skiing race in Cortina D'Ampezzo. Photograph: Christophe Pallot/Agence Zoom/Getty Images

Lindsey Vonn's model looks and famous boyfriend have often gained her more spotlight than her speed on two skis back in her home country but the American's latest feat may change all that.

Vonn, girlfriend to golfer Tiger Woods, became the most successful female athlete in Alpine skiing World Cup history on Monday when she topped the podium for the 63rd time.

The tight-knit ski circuit already knew what an exceptional athlete and competitor the Minnesota-born Vonn was.

But her victory in the super-G at Cortina d'Appezzo on Monday in front of the admiring Woods, who made the trip especially, and her parents Alan and Linda Kildow, should make her nation stand up and take notice.

"America is definitely 'record centric'. Hopefully, it will bring more attention to the sport," the former world and Olympic champion told reporters.

"It would be good, going into the world championships, that it creates more TV interest and more interest with the general public. Anyway I try to promote the sport.

"I think it's an amazing sport."

‘He doesn't need inspiration from me’

Tiger Woods kisses his girlfriend Lindsey Vonn

Tiger Woods kisses his girlfriend Lindsey Vonn. Photograph: Chris Keane/Reuters

As for Tiger, while she insists he played an essential part in her comeback, Vonn said she had no advice of her own to help him make it back to the top of his profession.

"It would be great to both be at the top of our sport at the same time. But he's a very motivated person. He doesn't need inspiration from me," she said.

Vonn is used to setting high standards

Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn

Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn. Photograph: Michel Cottin/Agence Zoom/Getty Images

Vonn's record-busting victory could not have come at a better moment.

The world championships are at home in Vail and Beaver Creek next month when Vonn and her fellow Americans should receive the kind of support usually reserved for the Winter Olympics.

It was apt that Vonn broke the record of Austrian Annemarie Moser-Proell in Italy.

As a 14-year-old Lindsey Kildow (she has retained her married name despite divorcing Thomas Vonn) she made her first impression by winning the Trofeo Topolino in Italy, a contest for young ski hopefuls.

With a ski-mad father, who moved the family from the small town of Burnsville and its small ski resort of Buck Hill in Minnesota to Vail in order to develop his daughter's talent, her progression was steady if unspectacular.

She made her first mark in slaloms but downhill was always on her mind as her teenage idol was Picabo Street, the 1996 downhill world champion and 1998 Super-G Olympic winner.

Little did the promising young skier know at the time that she would one day surpass her role-model and become the first American downhill Olympic champion, at Whistler in 2010.

"When I started Alpine skiing, my goal was to win one race. Now I belong to the history of the sport. It's difficult to put into words what it means to me," she said in Cortina.

Vonn is used to setting high standards.

Since her first World Cup podium, also in Cortina 11 years ago, Vonn has collected a record 17 World Cup globes including four ‘big globes’ for the overall title in 2008, 2009 and 2012.

She is also one of only five skiers to have won a World Cup race in all five Alpine skiing disciplines.

‘Everybody had been mentioning the record for so long that it definitely puts pressure on you’

Lindsey Vonn of the US Alpine Ski Team

Lindsey Vonn of the US Alpine Ski Team. Photograph: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Yet in spite of her constant smile and apparent good humour, Vonn has not always had it easy. In 2006, before the Turin Olympics, she publicly announced she was no longer speaking to her father, the former junior Olympic champion who had turned her into the outstanding athlete she became. They have since reconciled.

She also revealed in 2012, when her marriage was failing, that she had been and was still battling depression.

The worst was to come in the following two seasons when she broke her chin and had two knee operations, forcing her to take a one-year break to rebuild herself.

Her comeback was as swift as it was impressive as she won only her second race back in the World Cup in her favourite spot of Lake Louise in December.

Two more downhill wins in Val d'Isere and Cortina on Sunday put the all-time record within reach.

"I felt no pressure today. I was really loose. I was feeling much better than yesterday because I could focus on my skiing," she said. "Everybody had been mentioning the record for so long that it definitely puts pressure on you."

And now, what next?

"64, I guess! The record was in Annemarie's hands for so long. Thirty-five years is a long time. I hope it stays with me a little while," she said.

Moser-Proell is certain many more will follow.

"She will improve many more records, including some of mine," the Austrian, now 62, told reporters.

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