GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany — Olympic downhill gold medalist Lindsey Vonn capped a historic season with her third straight overall World Cup title on Friday.
Vonn won the final super-G race of the season for her 33rd World Cup win, eclipsing Bode Miller as the most decorated American skier.
"This was the dream season. To break the U.S. record in World Cup wins and to get the Olympic gold in the downhill, my favorite discipline, and the overall title for the third time, for me it doesn't get much better," Vonn said. "When you work this hard and be rewarded like this at the end of the season feels so great."
Vonn became the first woman to win three straight overall titles since Petra Kronberger of Austria in 1990-92. Only three other women have that many overall titles, including Vreni Schneider of Switzerland and Janica Kostelic of Croatia.
Annemarie Moser-Proell of Austria leads with six.
"Someone just told me she had won six World Cups overall, and I think my jaw is still on the ground right now," Vonn said.
Vonn won the race on the 2,180-meter long Kandahar course in 1 minute, 19.30 seconds. Elisabeth Goergl of Austria was second in 1:19.46, and Nadia Styger of Switzerland took third.
Vonn was the last racer to go down the Kandahar hill and could have opted not to race since she knew she'd clinched the title. She had a bruised right knee after falling in the giant slalom Thursday and is still nursing a bruised shin and broken right little finger.
Vonn secured the title when rival and friend Maria Riesch of Germany dropped out of the top two. Riesch finished fourth, giving Vonn an unassailable lead of 215 points in the standings before the last race of the season, the slalom on Saturday.
"I knew before I started. I had (husband) Thomas at the start with me. I was so nervous, because I knew if Maria was second or higher I had to get into the top seven or risk letting the globe slip through my fingers," Vonn said. "I am just so glad I was able to do it. I can't tell you the relief I have that I won, that I got the overall title and the season is finally over."
Vonn also picked up World Cup titles in the downhill, the super-G and the combined events.
Her 11 wins this season is an American record. Only one skier has more, Schneider with 14 in the 1988-89 season. Moser-Proell and Anja Paerson of Sweden also posted 11 wins in one season.
Vonn's 33 career victories is tied for sixth place with Hanni Wenzel of Liechtenstein. Moser-Proell leads that list with 62.
Riesch, competing on her home slope, will focus on the slalom after missing out on the overall title.
"I am a little upset because I had really good race at the top, but I made a mistake at the bottom," Riesch said. "But I still have a chance for the slalom title tomorrow."
Vonn has spent the Christmas holidays at Riesch's home in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. She speaks German and is popular in the country.
"Maria didn't make it easy for me," Vonn said. "She is such a strong competitor in all five disciplines and she didn't let off the gas the entire year. She made it a tough fight for me, but I think that is awesome.
"I love competing with Maria. We have both had a great season and she is going to be one of my toughest – if not the toughest – competitors for my entire career."
Next, Vonn looks forward to a long vacation.
"I am now going to go somewhere warm for a long time and not put my skis on after today probably until August," Vonn said. "It has been a long season and I am looking forward to some place – really anywhere – with a lounge chair and a drink with an umbrella in it."
Vonn won four of seven super-G races this season. She also won the bronze in the super-G at the Vancouver Olympics.
"I am looking forward to recuperating and recovering and not hurting my body for a few months at least," she said.