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By the numbers: Greatness for Vonn, confirmation for Burke

January 10, 2010 | 11:17 am

It's getting harder and harder to find new ways to describe Lindsey Vonn's triumphs.

So, let's turn to the most basic form of cataloging -- by the numbers -- to summarize what the U.S. ski star did this weekend in Haus, Austria, winning two downhills and today's super-G. In the video above, from the U.S. ski team, Vonn describes her triumph today.

No matter what math you use, they are adding up to a career that needs only an Olympic medal next month to be described as the greatest in U.S. alpine skiing history.

And Vonn still is only 25 years old.

3: Wins in 3 straight days. Never before done by a U.S. skier.

13: Number of years since a woman won three World Cup races in three days. Katja Seizinger of Germany was the last.

28: Vonn's career wins on the World Cup circuit. Second highest –- behind Bode Miller’s 31 -– by a U.S. skier.

6: Vonn's wins on the World Cup circuit season. No other man or woman has more than three.

9: Number of podium finishes for Vonn in 17 World Cup races this season.

0: Number of podium finishes for the rest of the U.S. women this season.

192: Vonn’s points lead in the World Cup standings as she seeks a third straight overall title.

164: Vonn’s lead in the World Cup downhill standings as she seeks a third straight title in that event. She has won all four downhills.

5: Number of cows Vonn has acquired since she won the first, Olympe, as a prize for winning the 2005 World Cup downhill in Val d’Isere, France. Olympe, who lives in Kirchberg, Austria, has had three calves and one "grandcalf."

5: Consecutive downhill wins for Vonn. There are only three longer streaks among women: Annemarie Moser-Proll of Austria (11 and seven) and, most recently (1995), Picabo Street of the U.S. (6).

22/28: Number of podium finishes for Vonn in World Cup downhills since the 2006 Winter Olympics. She has won 13 of those races.

7/7: Number of podium finishes for Vonn in the last seven World Cup super-G races, dating to last February. She has won five of the seven.

16: Vonn’s career downhill wins, tying her with Seizinger for fourth all-time.

And, speaking of numbers, here are a couple that are telling about U.S. biathlete Tim Burke:

2: Number of times this season Burke has earned the right to wear the yellow bib as World Cup overall leader in his sport.

0: Number of times any other U.S. biathlete ever has worn yellow.

In a post last week, I noted Burke's achievement of having claimed the bib earlier this season but said it needed to be put into context and reaffirmed before anyone projected him as a likely medal contender next month in Vancouver.

That Burke has repeated the feat, reclaiming the bib he lost Saturday by finishing second in the mass start today at Oberhof, Germany, provides just the sort of evidence needed to imagine that Burke will be the first U.S. biathlete on an Olympic medal stand. The best-ever U.S. finish was Jay Hakkinen's 10th at the 2006 Winter Games.

Burke, 27, grabbed the bib the first time after some of the sport's top athletes, including its greatest ever, Ole Einar Bjoerndalen of Norway, took some races off.

This weekend, after skipping three races, Bjoerndalen was back in action -- he won today's foggy mass start race -- but Burke did well enough (a 19th and a second; Bjoerndalen was 14th and first over the weekend) to regain the lead from Russia's Evgeny Ustyugov, who has raced the entire circuit.

Today's performance, before 25,000 spectators, was Burke's third time on the podium this season.

Now Burke will be in yellow for next week's races in Ruhpolding, Germany, the sport's mecca, where tens of thousands of spectators also line the courses.

"Almost all our staff is from that [Ruhpolding] area, and they did so much for me, I really hope they will be proud of me starting there with the bib of the overall leader," Burke said.

How else could they feel about Burke, no longer an Olympic shot in the dark?

-- Philip Hersh