Vonn of the U.S. is airborne as she clears a gate to win the women's World Cup Downhill skiing race in Cortina D'Ampezzo
CORTINA D'AMPEZZO, Italy (Reuters) - American Lindsey Vonn equaled Austrian Annemarie Moser-Proell's 35-year-old record of 62 women’s Alpine skiing World Cup victories when she won a downhill in Cortina d’Ampezzo on Sunday.
The four times World Cup overall winner and 2010 Olympic champion, who returned to action this season after a year out due to knee operations, can now break the record in Monday's Super-G in the same Italian resort.
Vonn, 30, also celebrated her 32nd downhill win -- four fewer than Moser-Proell who set her record between 1970 and 1980.
However, only four disciplines were on the World Cup program during the great Austrian's era, with the Super-G not introduced until the 1983 season.
"When I won my first podium here I never thought I would make it this far in my career," said the American, who took her first top three finish in the World Cup in Cortina 11 years ago almost to the day.
"That was the first time I thought I could be a contender. Never in a million years would I have believed (then that) I could tie the record," added Vonn, whose parents and relatives were watching.
Sweden's Ingemar Stenmark holds the men's record with 86 wins between 1975 and 1989.
It was no easy task for Vonn, who was only 10th in Friday's shortened downhill that was rescheduled from the Austrian resort of Bad Kleinkirchheim.
Sundsy's downhill had been postponed from Saturday due to snowfalls and the soft conditions did not help.
"I’m not good when it’s soft. I’m from Minnesota and we used to race on ice. I wasn’t very fast on the top," said the skier, who won in one minute and 39.61 seconds.
"I knew deep inside that I would one day reach this record but now all my family came to support me and to celebrate this special moment. It’s such a beautiful day for me. I wanted to do it for them," added Vonn, the girlfriend of golfer Tiger Woods.
Former downhill world champion Elisabeth Goergl of Austria was second, 0.32 seconds adrift, with local favorite Daniela Merighetti third.
Fellow-Italian Elena Fanchini, winner of Friday’s shortened race, was fourth.
Moser-Proell said she was relieved her record had been tied.
"I’m pleased that Lindsey did not crash because I felt that the pressure on her was getting too much, that she was maybe risking too much. Thank God she got her bones to the finish,” she told reporters.
"I'm 62 years-old now and records don’t mean that much for me, but for Lindsey it is very important. There are still other records to beat for Lindsey, even records by me."
(Reporting by Manuele Lang, writing by Francois Thomazeau, editing by Alan Baldwin)