Two serious knee surgeries, fog, soft snow, and mounting pressure to match one of skiing's most hallowed records.
Nothing seems to stop Lindsey Vonn.
The American fought through difficult conditions to win a demanding downhill Sunday and match Annemarie Moser-Proell's 35-year-old record of 62 World Cup wins, capping a comeback from injuries that kept her out of last year's Sochi Olympics.
“The last two years have been pretty tough and a lot of people counted me out and thought I would never reach this record,” Vonn said. “A lot of people thought that I would never win again. I never stopped believing in myself and I think I proved everyone wrong.”
Vonn clocked a time of 1 minute, 39.61 seconds down the Olympia delle Tofane course to finish 0.32 ahead of Elisabeth Goergl of Austria.
“It was just a tough day out there. The snow was a little bit soft but I did the best that I could,” Vonn said. “I fought really hard and to have a 62nd win with my whole family here pretty much — I'm missing some brothers and sisters — it just feels amazing and it's such a special day.”
Vonn's dad, mother, step dad, step mom and younger sister Laura attended the race. Family and members of Vonn's coaching staff put on celebratory T-shirts that said, “Congratulations to our golden Lindsey! Awesome!”
Daniela Merighetti of Italy was third, 0.54 back.
Vonn can break Moser-Proell's record in a super-G scheduled for Monday.
“I think 62 is more important to me,” Vonn said. “Now I feel like from here on out I'm already tied for No. 1. So I'm just going to try to continue to win races and I'm skiing for another three years so there's a lot of racing left in me and I'll just keep on doing my best.”
Moser-Proell, an Austrian great, established the record between 1970 and 1980.
Swedish standout Ingemark Stenmark holds the men's record of 86 wins.
“I feel like everyone has been talking about (the record) so much and it's a little bit frustrating because I just want to focus on the skiing,” Vonn said. “I felt it was just getting ahead of the actual skiing. I'm happy that the story is hopefully behind me now so I can just move forward and continue to do my best and hopefully get a lot more wins.”
Vonn was on track to smash the record two years ago before she crashed at the world championships and tore up her right knee, requiring serious surgery. She attempted to return for Sochi but re-injured her knee two months before the games and had to have surgery again.
“I'm trying to push the limits, always take tighter lines and ski like the men,” Vonn said. “Sometimes it doesn't work and I crash. That's part of my sport. But I don't change anything. That's my mentality — go big or go home.
“So having those ups and downs make the ups that more special,” Vonn added. “The last few wins have been so incredible.”
This was Vonn's third win of the season — all in downhill — and the eighth of her career in Cortina.
Olympic champion Eric Frenzel completed a hat trick of World Cup wins within three days to dominate the Nordic Combined Triple for a second straight year at Seefeld, Austria.
The German chased leader Haavard Klemetsen for the first 10 kilometers of the 15K cross-country race before overtaking the Norwegian and finishing in 38 minutes, 25.9 seconds.
Klemetsen came 9.9 seconds behind, and Akito Watabe of Japan was 20.5 back in third.
Earlier Sunday, Klemetsen earned a head start of 1:30 over Austria's Bernhard Gruber and 1:33 over Frenzel by winning the ski jumping portion with efforts of 109 and 110.5 meters. Gruber finished the cross-country race 59.1 off the lead in seventh.
Frenzel also won all three events of the inaugural Nordic Combined Triple last year. The German now has 21 career World Cup wins.
Hannes Reichelt of Austria spoiled Switzerland's big day to win the host nation's signature World Cup downhill in Wengen, Switzerland.
Reichelt took victory ahead of three Swiss former winners here by completing the grueling 4.4-kilometer (2.7-mile) Lauberhorn course in 2 minutes, 36.14 seconds.
Beat Feuz was 0.12 behind in second, and third-place Carlo Janka was a further 0.02 back in what shaped as a classic duel for the home crowd which was silenced by Reichelt's run. Defending champion Patrick Kueng was fourth.
Reichelt was runner-up a year ago and placed third in 2013.
Simon Schempp of Germany beat Quentin Fillon Maillet and Michal Slesingr in a photofinish to win a 15-kilometer mass start for his first biathlon World Cup win of the season at Ruhpolding, Germany.
Schempp just got the tip of his ski ahead of Fillon Maillet of France and Slesingr of the Czech Republic as all three finished in 35 minutes, 42.8 seconds. All three shot cleanly and avoided any penalty loops.
Norway's Emil Hegle Svendsen and Ole Einar Bjorndalen were fourth and fifth, respectively, with one missed target each, followed by Russia's Anton Shipulin, who missed two.
Canadian freestyle skier Justine Dufour-Lapointe added to her Olympic gold medal by winning the world moguls title, while Anthony Benna of France won the men's gold in Kreischberg, Austria.
Dufour-Lapointe, who earned bronze at the 2013 worlds in Norway, scored 87.25 points in the final. Defending champion Hannah Kearney of the United States won silver with 85.66 points, while Britteny Cox of Australia gained 81.98 points for the bronze medal.
Benna, who has never finished in the top 15 of a major championship, ended on 86.89 points to beat silver medalist Mikael Kingsbury of Canada by 0.35 points. Alexandr Smyshlyaev of Russia scored 85.68 points and took bronze, edging fourth-place Patrick Deneen of the United States by only 0.04.