By NESHA STARCEVIC, Associated Press
GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany (AP) — A career milestone and a rare family reunion. All of which left Lindsey Vonn in tears, and it made for a perfect day.
Vonn captured her 50th World Cup victory Saturday, winning the downhill on the demanding Kandahar course with temperatures plunging to minus 13.
"It's crazy. I am at a loss for words. I already cried with one of the TV crews and that is enough crying for the day," Vonn said. "Fifty World Cup wins is a huge mark for me in my career and more than I even thought possible. I just wanted the 50th win."
Few skiers reach the 50-win landmark. Among the women, only Annemarie Moser-Proell of Austria (62) and Vreni Schneider of Switzerland (55) are ahead of Vonn. Only three men have 50 or more: Ingemar Stenmark of Sweden (86), Hermann Maier of Austria (54) and Alberto Tomba of Italy (50).
At 27, Vonn is older than Moser-Proell was when she broke the mark, but younger than Schneider.
"My goal is always only to win the next race," Vonn said later, answering questions in her nearly flawless German.
At the rate Vonn is going, Schneider's mark is unlikely to last long. Vonn already has nine wins this season. Vonn's first win was in March 2006 in Norway.
Vonn won in 1 minute, 44.86 seconds. Nadja Kamer of Switzerland was 0.41 seconds behind and Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein finished third, 0.79 back.
Vonn was 0.62 seconds behind at the second split and nearly crashed midway down the icy and bumpy course before regaining her balance to win by nearly half a second.
"That wasn't part of the plan," she said. "I hit a bump and lost the inside edge of my ski and went onto my hip. From that point until the finish I skied well and was able to make up some time."
Vonn celebrated a triumphant return to this southern German resort, where she had a tough time last year at the world championships. Coming off a concussion, the dominant skier of her generation won only a silver medal in the downhill.
"I have raced in a lot of places and always something good or bad happens no matter what you do," she said. "Last year wasn't the best time here in Garmisch, but I turned everything around this year and it's awesome to get the 50th in Garmisch.
"My sister's here, my dad is here. Things happen for a reason and I didn't win last weekend because I needed my family here to help me celebrate."
After separating from her husband and coach Thomas Vonn before the start of the season, Vonn has also started the process of repairing the relationship with her father, Alan Kildow, who introduced her to skiing and even moved the family from Minnesota to Colorado to hone her talent. They had a falling out a few years ago, the tension stemming in part from Vonn's relationship with Thomas.
Last weekend, Vonn missed out on her 50th win, edged by 0.03 seconds by German friend and rival Maria Hoefl-Riesch in St. Moritz, Switzerland. A week later on Hoefl-Riesch's home slope, Vonn was not to be denied.
Vonn told reporters in German she was particularly happy to reach the 50th win — "records mean everything to me" — in Garmisch, where she spends Christmas holidays with Hoefl-Riesch and her family.
"Lindsey was sensational in the bottom part," said Hoefl-Riesch, who finished fourth and missed the podium by two-tenths of a second.
Vonn lauded Kamer for her good run.
"She was really fast at the top of the course," Vonn said. "I am not sure how she did it, she may have had some rockets on her skis or something. She skied really well and I knew she would be hard to beat."
Vonn leads the overall World Cup standings by 482 points and the downhill standings by 230 points, with 100 points for a win. She is on course to reclaim the overall title from Hoefl-Riesch.
"I am just so happy, every win is special, but 50 is a huge mark," Vonn said. "I feel like today will be a day when I look back at my career and see what I have achieved. I have a lot more to do. I have a lot more years of skiing in me, but Alberto Tomba has 50 ski wins and he is one of the best skiers of all time. I don't see myself in that way, but to know that I have accomplished so much to this point is amazing."
A super-G is scheduled for Sunday.