Lindsey Vonn, the 2010 Olympic downhill champion, has been performing at such a high level that her achievements seem routine. Think of it as the Meryl Streep effect: Her? Again? Mainstream sports fans who repeatedly come across the U.S. skier's name might be tempted to dismiss her from boredom alone.
They should resist the impulse, because at age 27, smack between the 2010 and '14 Olympics that will define her legacy, Vonn has come to dominate her sport like few athletes in history. Last Friday in Are, Sweden, Vonn clinched her fourth World Cup overall championship, a cumulative-points title based on results in all five Alpine racing disciplines. It is emblematic of the best all-around ski racer in the world, and Vonn wrapped it up with five races left in the season.
Vonn has won 11 races this season, matching her U.S. record, and she could still break Swiss star Vreni Schneider's 1989 world record of 14. Vonn has had her best season despite personal turmoil. Last fall she announced that she had filed for divorce from former U.S. Ski Team racer Thomas Vonn, who had been a significant part of Team Vonn. "The problems in my personal life have made me more focused," Vonn said. "I just wanted to prove to myself that I could ski, by myself. I've definitely had more focus than ever before."
Vonn long ago stamped herself as the best U.S. ski racer in history; she could soon remove the "U.S." distinction. With 52 career World Cup wins she trails only Austria's Annemarie Moser-Pröll (55) and Schneider (62) among women, and barring injury Vonn should get both before the 2014 Games. She might even catch the alltime men's leader, Ingemar Stenmark of Sweden (86). It's arithmetic that Vonn chases now; the other challenges—opponents, mountains, the clock—have proved unworthy.