A golden career may have finished sooner than expected.
While Mikaela Shiffrin continued her march towards greatness with a super-G win in Cortina on Sunday — her 54th career World Cup win — Lindsey Vonn failed to finish the race and later told reporters that she may have competed in her last race.
Vonn, the greatest female skier in history with 82 career victories, needs five more wins on the World Cup circuit to beat Ingemar Stenmark’s record of 86.
But that mark seems a long way off now for the American who made her competitive return this weekend after recovering from a knee injury.
At the conclusion of the weekend’s racing, Vonn said retirement was a “possibility” before quickly adding: “But I’m emotional right now.”
“I have to really think clearly about that. It’s not a decision I make lightly or quickly,” Vonn was quoted in a number of media outlets as saying, citing Associated Press.
“I really don’t know what to think at this point. Definitely isn’t the way I had hoped that things would go. I’ve been able to fight through a lot of injuries in my career but I think my injuries might get the best of me at this point.
“I’m going to give it a couple of days and make some decisions.”
The 34-year-old competed in Italy with braces on both knees and her best performance was ninth in Saturday’s downhill.
Following Sunday’s super-G, Vonn broke into tears after being presented with a bouquet of flowers by the Olympic downhill champion Sofia Goggia in the finish area.
She has achieved much on the Italian slopes, holding the record for 12 wins. It was also in Cortina she achieved her first podium and later broke the overall women’s World Cup record in 2015 with her 63rd win.
“It’s more emotional than I expected. You know that the end is coming but it doesn’t make it any easier,” Vonn said.
Speaking to CNN’s Alpine Edge last week, Vonn said she has become increasingly fearful of the onset of arthritis should she race on to try to become the most successful skier ever.
“I want to be able to walk without pain when I’m older and hopefully some day I’ll be able to ski with my kids and that’s important to me,” Vonn said while in Cortina.
Shiffrin continues to dominate
Vonn also told Alpine Egde that she expected compatriot Shiffrin, who has won 11 times this season and is fourth on the women’s all-time list, to “break many records.”
Should Shiffrin continue her current dominance of women’s skiing, the 23-year-old will likely reach the top of the all-time list while still in her 20s. But the most immediate record on Shiffrin’s radar will be Vreni Schneiter’s for most wins in a season. The Swiss won 14 times in the 1988-89 season.
The American finished in 1:22.48 in Italy to secure her third super-G win of the season, while Lichtenstein’s Tina Weirather (+ 0.16) was second and Austria’s Tamara Tippler (+ 0.18) third.
Shiffrin enjoys a commanding lead in the overall standings, 496 points ahead of her nearest challenger, Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova, and is on course for a third straight World Cup overall crown.
The two-time Olympic gold medalist will be the hot favorite to clinch a fourth straight slalom world title at the World Championships in Are, Sweden, next month.
Hirscher beaten in Wengen
Elsewhere, Marcel Hirscher, the most dominant male skier of his generation, had to settle for third in the slalom in Wengen as France’s Clement Noel claimed his first World Cup win.
The 21-year-old Frenchman followed up last week’s second place in Adelboden with a sensational first in Switzerland on Sunday.
He was 0.47 seconds ahead of Austria’s Manuel Feller after the first run, with Hirscher off the pace, and did enough in the second run to secure victory by 0.08 seconds.
Austria’s Feller was second with Hirscher (+0.91) third, bringing an end to the Austrian’s run of three consecutive victories.
Hirscher has won the last seven overall crowns — awarded to the skier with the most points across all six disciplines — to pass the record of five set by Luxembourg’s Marc Girardelli in 1993.
The double Olympic gold medalist from PyeongChang 2018 has also won five of the last six World Cup slalom titles and five of the last seven giant slalom season-ending crowns.