MERIBEL, France (Reuters) - Lindsey Vonn crowned her return season in style by adding a 66th World Cup victory and an 18th crystal globe to her peerless collection in the downhill on Wednesday.
The American bagged her seventh downhill World Cup title in one minute and 29.87 seconds, equaling another of Annemarie Moser-Proell’s records set in the 1970s.
If Vonn also wins the Super-G trophy on Thursday, she would equal the record of 19 crystal globes collected by Swede Ingemar Stenmark in the men’s World Cup.
“I was injured for two years and to be back in the World Cup and win another globe, it’s just amazing,” she said.
“I won the downhill title already and hopefully another one tomorrow. I have a special cupboard at home for my trophies and it’s got room for 23 so it can take a few more.”
Back from a year off and two knee operations in December, Vonn beat experienced Austrians Elisabeth Goergl, the 2011 world champion, who finished 0.24 adrift, with 2007 World Cup champion Nicole Hosp third a further 0.06 seconds back.
The battle for the women’s overall World Cup between the last two winners of the big globe is tighter than ever.
The 2013 World Cup champion Tina Maze was fourth, 0.40 off the pace, and is back on the heels of holder Anna Fenninger of Austria, who only managed eighth place and leads the Slovenian by 12 points with three races left.
“I have to stay focused on the races and not on the points. I’ll give it my best and see what happens,” said Fenninger, world champion in the Super-G and giant slalom, the next two events at the finals on Thursday and Friday.
The men’s downhill title went to Kjetil Jansrud, who made the best of the soft snow conditions to clinch the 10th World Cup win of his career and the seventh this winter.
Already World Cup Super-G champion, the Norwegian left nearest rival Hannes Reichelt 94 points behind in the downhill standings after the Austrian had to settle for 10th on the French piste hosting the World Cup finals.
“It can’t compare to a medal or winning Kitzbuehel. They are only one-day joys. A globe crowns is the whole season”, he said.
The 100 points for victory lifted him to within 64 points overall behind three-times big globe winner Marcel Hirscher, who will take part in Thursday’s Super-G to try and score points.
Swiss 2010 Olympic champion Didier Defago, in his last World Cup downhill, bade a splendid farewell to the discipline by taking second place, 0.24 behind Jansrud.
Reporting by Manuele Lang; writing by Francois Thomazeau; editing by Ken Ferris