11:29 AM EDT, March 18, 2012
Lindsey Vonn left herself a mountain to climb.
Skiing with an unaccustomed conservatism in Sunday's season-ending giant slalom in Schladming, Austria, Vonn wound up a non-scoring 24th among 27 starters.
So she finished with 1,980 World Cup points, missing Hermann Maier's all-time record of 2,000.
To beat the Austrian, Vonn had needed just a 12th.
Her worst finish in eight previous World Cup giant slaloms this season was 12th.
"I’m definitely disappointed in the way today’s race turned out," Vonn said. "I'm going to try really hard to beat the record next year. That's not my main goal but I'm motivated for another season."
Vonn was 16th after the first run, just .14 from 12th.
But she lost a pole at the start of the second run and then much more time during her 73 seconds on the slope.
She wound up 1.17 seconds from 12th and a whopping four seconds behind winner Viktoria Rebensburg of Germany, who took the giant slalom season title.
"I was a little conservative in the first run but I was still in a good position to get the 20 points I needed," Vonn said.
"I’ve never had that happen in entire life, never lost a pole in the start. (Stuff) happens. I just have to look to next year."
Sunday's race was a rare failure for Vonn in the best World Cup season of her career.
She won a U.S. record 12 races, a fourth World Cup overall title, a fifth straight season downhill title. fourth straight Super-G title and third straight Super-combined title.
She also won the first two giant slalom races in 11 seasons on the World Cup circuit and finished second in the season standings for that discipline. Her best previous standing had been eigth.
The 1,980 points broke the women's World Cup season record of 1,970 set by Croatia's Janica Kostelic in 2006. They also were nearly 200 points more than Vonn's old personal best of 1,788 from 2009.
"The season has gone incredibly well," she said.
It also should have a lingering positive impact because, at 27, Vonn found she had even more mental strength than she might have imagined.
One month into the season, Vonn confirmed she and her husband of four years, Thomas Vonn, were divorcing.
"I feel like in difficult times you can push yourself and see how strong you really are," Vonn said. "I think I have proved a lot of things to myself this year."
In Vonn's shadow, as she has been most of her career, teammate Julia Mancuso quietly put together her best season in five years.
Mancuso, 2006 Olympic gold medalist, had six podium finishes, one victory and wound up fourth in the overall standings. Her best career overall finish is third in 2007 - the last time she was ahead of Vonn (6th) in those standings.
Mancuso, whose relationship with Vonn had been distant at best in recent years, became part of her teammate's support group this season.
"Julia and I have been hanging out a lot," Vonn said. "She and all my teammates have supported me more than I could have asked for."
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