After two dominant World Cup victories in two days, Lindsey Vonn feels she has finally completed her comeback from the injuries that kept her away from the Sochi Olympics.
It took the American nearly three years to get back to her best, following the crash at the 2013 world championships that badly damaged her right knee.
“The best Lindsey ever? I am definitely stronger mentally and I think I am matching my form from the 2011-12 season,” Vonn said after her super-G victory on Sunday, a day after also winning the downhill here.
In 2012, Vonn won the latest of her four overall titles and came just 20 points short of breaking the then record for the highest World Cup points total in a single season.
“The only difference is, I am a little bit older now, and a little bit smarter,” Vonn said. “It’s still sad, looking back at that injury. But I’ve learned a lot since. It was the hardest moment in my career, I lost so much time, I lost the Olympics. But I am proud of what I’ve done since.”
The back-to-back wins boosted Vonn’s chances of adding a fifth overall title as they heated up her battle with this season’s leader Lara Gut.
Vonn trailed Gut by 158 points coming into this weekend’s races but has reduced her deficit to 38. Gut placed second in the super-G, a day after the Swiss skier failed to finish the downhill.
“It was a perfect weekend,” said Vonn, who timed 1 minute, 12.75 seconds on the Kaelberloch course to beat Gut by 0.70. Cornelia Huetter of Austria came 1.25 back in third.
Viktoria Rebensburg led Vonn by 0.35 at the final split time but the German had a costly mistake in the final part of her run and finished outside of the top 10.
“I thought Lara or Vicky could beat me,” Vonn said. “I skied a little bit conservatively in the middle, I could have skied a little bit more clean. In the bottom I definitely skied well. I played my cards right.”
The speed coach of the U.S. ski team, Alberto Senigagliesi, had set the twisting yet fast course. Vonn called it “a tough course set on this slope. In the middle it was tough but the lower part was really fun.”
It was that bottom section where Vonn ultimately won the race.
“One thing that’s my strength is knowing where I need to make speed in the course,” Vonn said. “The bottom part of this course is the most important part. I think I was smart with my tactics.”
Similar to Rebensburg, Gut led the American at the last intermediate time but lost 0.71 in the final section that Vonn mastered to perfection.
“I enjoyed it and I am very happy — until my final split time,” Gut said. “If you go fast, you can make mistakes. The season is still long.”
Rebensburg said she caught a bump and was thrown off the race line costing her the advantage over Vonn.
“It annoys me,” the German said. “But it’s good to see you can challenge Vonn if you have a good run. I’ll take that with me.”
A day after matching the all-time record of 36 World Cup downhill victories, Vonn also continued her dominance in super-G.
The last super-G Vonn didn’t win was in Bankso, Bulgaria, in March last year, as she placed third behind winner Anna Fenninger and runner-up Tina Maze. Both Fenninger (knee injury) and Maze (year off) are not competing this season.
Vonn took the only previous super-G this season by a 1.32-second winning margin in Lake Louise, Alberta, last month, and is now unbeaten in the discipline for four races.
It’s the second time in her career since 2009 that Vonn is on a four-race winning streak. Only Katja Seizinger of Germany won more super-G races in a row — five in 1997.
The next women’s World Cup event is a night slalom in nearby Flachau on Tuesday. Flachau will also host next weekend’s races that have been moved from Ofterschwang, Germany.