For Lindsey Vonn, third overall World Cup title is sweeter than Olympic gold

This weekend, Lindsey Vonn captured the overall World Cup title for the third year in a row, a feat unmatched by any woman in nearly two decades.

Michaela Rehle/Reuters
Lindsey Vonn of the US poses with her Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics medal and the women's overall Alpine Skiing World Cup trophy in Garmisch-Partenkirchen Saturday.

Less than a month after winning two Olympic medals, Lindsey Vonn this weekend captured an arguably more prestigious honor that makes her not only the most successful woman in US alpine skiing but one of the best ever. Period.

At the World Cup finals in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, this weekend, Vonn wrapped up not only the overall World Cup title – awarded to the athlete with the most cumulative points in races from October to March. She also won the World Cup downhill, super-G, and combined titles, sweeping three of the five disciplines.

While Germany’s Maria Riesch skied well all season, including beating Vonn last week in the final downhill race of the season, it wasn't enough to unseat her American friend and toughest rival.

"The overall title is one of the biggest things you can win in our sport," said Vonn, coming off Olympic gold in Whistler, British Columbia. "I always try to give my best every day, but it's a long season."

This is Vonn's third straight overall title, a feat unmatched since Austria's Petra Kronberger won her trio from 1990-92. Vonn's 11 World Cup wins this season make her second only to Austria's Annemarie Moser-Proell, who won 14 in 1988-89 and 62 in her career. While Vonn is only at 33 so far, that's a new US record, beating out five-time Olympic medalist Bode Miller of Franconia, N.H.

While Miller quit the season due to injuries shortly after his outstanding Olympic performances, teammate Ted Ligety continued the momentum of an historic year for US alpine skiing by capturing the World Cup title in Giant Slalom for the second time in three years.

Miller and Vonn, together with Julia Mancuso, led the way for the best Olympics ever for the US alpine ski team, blasting their previous record of five medals – won in 1984 – with eight medals in Whistler.

But amid the success there was significant tension as Mancuso, a 2006 gold medalist who won two silvers at the 2010 Games, expressed frustration that Vonn was getting all the attention. Vonn arguably got more publicity ahead of the Games than any other US athlete, as NBC sought to create excitement by hyping a few key athletes – chief among them the Minnesota native with a sweet smile and outstanding record. Going into the Olympics, Mancuso hadn't won a World Cup in three years, while Vonn had established herself as the best woman in US skiing history.

Vonn's skiing in Garmisch – winning the super-G and taking second in the downhill – underscored that point, although Mancuso left a final reminder that she's still a threat by finishing fifth in the downhill.

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