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It’s a testament to how durable Ingemar Stenmark’s record of 86 World Cup wins really is. Not only did the great Swede have to be best skier in the world during his time—which he certainly was. He had to remain remarkably healthy as well.
Lindsey Vonn’s chase for Stenmark suffered a serious blow last week when she crashed hard at the Copper Mountain’s U.S. Ski Team Training Center. It’s not yet known how long she’ll be out, though given that it’s a broken arm, and not a leg, a return to competition this year seems possible. Still, the injury certainly dims her chances of catching Stenmark this season.
Vonn needs 11 wins to surpass Stenmark. With the World Cup Finals scheduled for Aspen in March, it until recently seemed excitingly possible that she could make history in her home state of Colorado. That makes last week’s news a doubly disappointing blow for American race fans.
Since maturing as a world-beating athlete in 2008, when she won six races, Vonn has averaged about eight wins per year. That’s if you throw out her best season, 12 wins in 2012, and her worst, zero wins in 2014.
That 2014 season was a notable exception for Vonn in that it was missed, along with the Sochi Olympics, due to injury. Before that, she’d shown that she had the physical makeup, the work ethic, and the luck to stay healthy, which is key to any assault on the Stenmark record.
On the bright side, Vonn bounced back with eight wins in 2015, then nine in 2016, demonstrating that her leg injuries weren’t career threatening. A broken arm, while regrettable, doesn’t seem likely to compromise her ability to win races in the long term, and at age 32, she’s still got time on her side.
Stenmark’s record—once as seemingly indelible as Ripken’s consecutive games or Dimaggio’s hit streak—may yet stand for another season. But it still seems to be very much in jeopardy.
Photo Credit: Erich Spiess / ASP / Red Bull Content Pool