Simply the best: Vonn makes more ski history

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Lindsey Vonn winning Friday's giant slalom

Lindsey Vonn winning Friday's giant slalom in Are, Sweden, clinching a fourth World Cup overall title. (Pontus Lindahl / Reuters / December 16, 2013)

Her unprecedented success in giant slalom has been the big change in Vonn's skiing this season.  She attributes the difference to using men's longer, stiffer skis in giant slalom, a switch she previously had made in the speed events.

"It forces me to take a straighter line because I can't pull the short radius (turn) with the long skis," she said.  "It's more risky, but at the same time the length of the ski gives me more stability."

Vonn has improved her U.S. record for points in a season to 1,808, giving her a good shot with five races left at the World Cup record of 2,000 by Austria's Herman Maier.  (Points run from 100 for a win to 1 for 30th place.)  Croatia's Janica Kostelic has the women's record total, 1,970.

"I'm trying to beat the 2,000 barrier," she said.  "That opportunity may never come again in my career."

Vonn's numbers already speak for themselves.  And while you can use them to measure her against her sport's past standards, the time has come to start looking at her from a different perspective.

Comparing greatness from one sport to another can be a futile apples-and-oranges exercise.  There are, after all,  relatively few elite skiers, especially when counted against basketball or soccer players and the like.

But no athlete in any sport has been more consistently brilliant over the past several years than Vonn. 

And hers is a sport in which everything conspires against consistency.

She wins on mushy snow and rock-hard ice, in weather conditions that can immeasurably help one skier and wreck the chances of the next, from November through March in a far-from-the-mainstream sport that demands she live mainly out of a suitcase and far from home, in events that require fearlessness and technical mastery.

Lindsey Vonn simply is as good as it gets. 

 

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