You wonder whether Lindsey Vonn is so good this season that the point has come whether she has simply imposed her will on everything and everyone around her. She did it again Saturday, winning the historic 50th World Cup victory of her career in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, even though temperatures in the Bavarian Alps were crazy cold and she had to survive a near-crash about halfway down.
Lindsey's winning time, in temperatures of -13 Fahrenheit, so cold that racers had to tape their faces to avoid frostbite, was 1:44.86. She trailed through the early intervals. Yet by the finish she was, again, first, and by almost half a second.
Nadja Kamer of Switzerland finished second, 41-hundredths of a second back. Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein crossed third, 79-hundredths back, for her third World Cup podium finish, all this season.
Last year's overall World Cup winner and a Garmisch local, Maria Höfl-Riesch, Lindsey's good friend and rival, finished fourth, in 1:45.85, 99-hundredths back.
At 27, Lindsey is the youngest woman to reach 50 World Cup victories. Only Annemarie Moser-Pröll of Austria, with 62, and Switzerland's Vreni Scheider, with 55, have more.
Of the three, Lindsey got to 50 the fastest, with just seven years between her first World Cup win and her 50th. It took Moser-Pröll eight years.
Men's racers with 50 or more victories: Ingemar Stenmark (86), Hermann Maier (54), Alberto Tomba (50).
"I mean, when I was a kid I dreamed of winning the Olympic gold medal and I wanted to ski like people like Alberto Tomba did," Lindsey said Saturday night from Garmisch on a conference call with a few American reporters. "But I never dreamed I would have reached the successes they reached in their careers.
"I still have a lot of years of racing in me. I have been at a loss for words all day. It definitely is something I never expected. It takes a lot of hard work to get to this many wins and it is a huge milestone in my career."
The Garmisch downhill, 1.8 miles long, is called the Kandahar. It's a course that, by now in her career, Lindsey knows well -- but, intriguingly, one she had never won.
Last year, they held the world championships on this course, and despite battling the effects of a concussion, Lindsey finished second.
All week, anticipation ran high that Lindsey would get that 50th victory. She had come oh-so-close to 50 last weekend in St. Moritz, Switzerland, winning first a super-combined (48), then a downhill (49) and then, last Sunday, coming in second, behind Höfl-Riesch in another super-combined by a mere three-hundredths of a second.
In Garmisch, there's an American military base essentially at the bottom of the run. During the week, Lindsey and others on the U.S. team had visited with some of the U.S. troops -- so she and the other American racers, as they always do there, had a built-in red, white and blue rooting crew.
Three other Americans finished Saturday in the top 15: Stacey Cook ninth, Laurenne Ross 10th, Julia Mancuso 13th. The U.S. women's team leads the downhill Nations Cup standing race -- over Austria -- by 433 points. Austria leads the overall standings with 3555 points, the Americans second with 2428.
At the second split, Lindsey trailed by 62-hundredths. Then came a bump about halfway down the course that saw Lindsey lose the inside edge of a ski and slide onto a hip and almost out of the race. Almost.
She recovered, found a line and made up time.
The U.S. head coach, Alex Hoedlmoser, who had been standing by the side of the course about 20 meters away from the spot where Lindsey almost went down, said afterward that watching her slip "stopped my heart a little bit."
But, he said, she "pulled it off like nobody else would."
She said, "I definitely gave the coaches a little bit of a scare there."
She also said, "I felt like I was down on my hip and then right back up again," the kind of mistake she has made before and assuredly will make again. "I do make mistakes quite a few times in downhill and super-G. I just have to keep my composure and ski the line I expect at maybe a more aggressive pace -- I have to keep my composure and keep going."
The victory Saturday was Lindsey's ninth -- already -- on the 2011-12 tour. She has won four downhills.
Of her 50 World Cup victories, 25 have been downhills.
Lindsey now has 1350 points for the season, a whopping 482-point lead over Tina Maze of Slovenia. Höfl-Riesch stands third with 746.
Lindsey leads the downhill points tally as well, by 230.
The next event: a super-G, on Sunday, still in Garmisch. Lindsey leads the super-G standings this season, too.
This season, of course, has come amid considerable turmoil in Lindsey's personal life. She split from her husband, Thomas. Lindsey's sister, Laura, was on hand in Garmisch as was her father, Alan Kildow, and stepmom. She said she was glad to be able to share the historic moment with family.
Make no mistake. The time that Lindsey gets on the mountain is, in many ways, sanctuary. When she's up there in that start gate, it just her and her very considerable will, alone.
The best two minutes of her day are coming right up. She couldn't be happier.
"I'm really enjoying skiing," she said in that conference call. "I feel like no matter what going on in my personal life I can put my skis on and go out and have fun.
"Skiing has been honestly the best thing for me in my life at this point. It's hard to describe. Things in the personal front aren't any better than they were a few months ago. I feel very clear-minded when I'm skiing. I enjoy it … it's just a different state of mind."