By Patrick Lang
LAKE LOUISE, Alberta (Reuters) - Her 13th victory at Lake Louise was a lucky one for Lindsey Vonn, who won her second downhill in two days at the Canadian resort in spite of a huge mistake.
The American took a turn so short that she nearly stopped in the top section of the men's Olympic course, yet retained enough speed and strength to upstage all her rivals and snatch her 55th World Cup victory in one minute and 52.90 seconds.
"I cut an edge and told myself, 'Oh my God, what have I done?' But I remembered a similar situation two years ago and I told myself to keep fighting," she said.
"It was actually the best place to make a fault because there's a steep section afterwards to gather speed. I proved today that you always need to fight and that nothing is for granted."
Like in Friday's downhill on the same course, Vonn's compatriot Stacey Cook was second, 0.52 adrift, while Swiss Marianne Kaufmann-Abderhalden was third, 0.62 behind for only her second World Cup podium placing.
It was Vonn's sixth downhill victory in succession in the village that has been dubbed Lake Lindsey because of the tremendous amount of success by the four times World Cup champion.
And with 55 World Cup wins, she has now upstaged Austria's Hermann Maier and equaled the number of victories by Swiss slalom specialist Vreni Schneider.
The record of 62 victories held by Austria's Annemarie Moser-Proell now looks within reach.
"It beats me to be compared to such legends," Vonn said. "Moser-Proell has been holding that record for thirty years and I never thought I could approach it.
"Records are important because they're a trace you're leaving. But you don't think about records when you race, you just try to be at your best, which was not really the case today."
Young girls keep flocking around the American asking for autographs, and a six-year-old fan was carrying a sign saying: "You're fast, awesome and beautiful".
"It's important to be a champion, but it is even more important to be a role model. That's my main motivation," said Vonn, who idolized American downhill ace Picabo Street in her teens.
Vonn will be going for her 14th victory at Lake Louise in Sunday's Super-G, hoping that the foggy conditions that have hampered the competition in the past couple of days will improve.
"It will be harder tomorrow because the level in super-G is much tighter than in downhills," she said.
Her weekend is already a highly successful one after stomach problems forced her to spend a few days in hospital while a controversy raged about her intention to race against men in Lake Louise.
This week, rumors linked her to a famous sportsman, adding a bit of media pressure, but she insisted she could care less.
"Since I've been divorced, rumors have been going on," she said. "I don't read the papers, but it's hard to handle, you have no control whatsoever over it."
(Reporting by Patrick Lang; editing by Gene Cherry)