CORTINA D’AMPEZZO, Italy (AP) — The whole gang was there when Lindsey Vonn finally became the most successful women’s World Cup skier of all time.
Her mother had come to Europe for the first time. The American’s once-estranged father came along, too.
And then a masked man showed up as Vonn celebrated a super-G victory Monday for her record 63rd World Cup win to make the party complete.
Wearing a mask with a skull design, boyfriend Tiger Woods weaved through the crowd unnoticed until he shared an emotional embrace with Vonn, who had no idea that the golfer was jetting to Europe for the occasion.
“No way!” Vonn exclaimed when she spotted him.
“It was an amazing surprise,” Vonn said. “I’m so happy that he’s here. ... Everyone important to me is here — my mom and dad and my sister and Tiger — it’s pretty incredible. I didn’t think it was going to get better than yesterday and today topped it.
“I knew it was him immediately,” Vonn added. “He loves that stupid mask.”
Vonn broke Annemarie Moser-Proell’s 35-year-old record of 62 World Cup wins with a flawless run down the Olympia delle Tofane course, finishing by a huge margin of 0.85 ahead of Anna Fenninger of Austria. It came a day after equaling the record with a downhill win on Sunday.
“It’s funny for me to see that he has to wear a mask and hide,” Fenninger said of Woods. “He’s just a normal human but for us it’s a big thing that he’s here, because skiing is not as important like golf in the world.”
Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein placed third, 0.92 back.
“It’s such a big number,” Weirather, the daughter of champion skiers Hanni Wenzel and Harti Weirather, said of Vonn’s accomplishment. “I can’t even imagine winning so many races. She has done so much for the sport, because she’s a real superstar and that makes Alpine skiing more popular in the U.S. and Europe. We need people like that for our sport.”
Vonn said Woods watched Sunday’s victory at home in Florida, so she couldn’t quite fathom how he made it to Europe so quickly.
“I had no idea he was here,” Vonn added. “He told everyone to keep it a secret and I’m surprised. Normally no one can keep a secret in my family. ... He just showed up. ... He has a tournament soon. So he’s got a lot of work and I’m surprised that he was able to come all the way over here for a few hours to watch me ski.”
Woods did not speak with reporters and did not take part in the victory celebration. Vonn was joined on the podium by teammates, coaches and family members wearing T-shirts that said “63 victories” and “Make History LV63.”
Clearly choosing to leave the spotlight on Vonn, Woods watched by himself from a small white tent protected by police, then was quickly ushered away on a waiting snowmobile.
It was Vonn’s first win in super-G this season and her fourth overall this campaign, showing a return to top form after two right knee injuries kept her out of last year’s Sochi Olympics.
Woods witnessed one of her injuries, in Val d’Isere, France — the only other time he saw her ski in Europe.
“So this is a totally different scenario and a much better memory that we can have forever,” Vonn said.
Vonn has won four of the eight races she has entered this season, making her the favorite in the downhill and super-G at next month’s world championships in Vail and Beaver Creek, Colorado.
“That’s an unbelievable comeback,” said U.S. Alpine director Patrick Riml. “Her confidence is going to be through the roof.”
Breathing heavily and gritting her teeth in the start house, Vonn attacked all the way down and increased her lead at every checkpoint. She had a relatively subdued celebration, having said that win No. 62 was more important to her.
“It’s really cool to see her skiing exactly how she wants to be skiing,” said Julia Mancuso, Vonn’s most accomplished teammate. “I’m just happy to be a part of a team where she’s able to break records and push the limit. It’s super-impressive, especially after such a big injury, I think it means even more.”
Moser-Proell, an Austrian great, established her record between 1970 and 1980, while Swedish standout Ingemar Stenmark holds the men’s record of 86 wins.
“Moser-Proell is a legend in Austria,” said Riml, an Austrian. “She was a legend all over the world. She still is but there’s a new legend now.”