Lindsey Vonn is the 2010 Female Athlete of the Year, chosen by members of The Associated Press.

She’s the first skier — male or female — to win one of the annual AP awards, which began in 1931.

Vonn received 77 of 175 votes submitted by news organizations that make up the AP’s membership. That is more than double what anyone else got in the tally announced on Saturday.

Vonn won two medals at the Vancouver Olympics, including the first downhill gold for an American woman, and captured her third consecutive World Cup overall title.

“For sure, 2010 was the best year I’ve ever had,” the 26-year-old Vonn said in a telephone interview from France, where she won a World Cup downhill race on Saturday. “It couldn’t have gone any better for me. Even if I just won the Olympic gold medal, that would have made it the best year of my career and the best day of my life, period. Winning the World Cup races and the overall title just topped it off.”

Racehorse Zenyatta’s 32 votes placed her No. 2 in the AP balloting for the second consecutive year. The 6-year-old mare retired with a 19-1 record and a North American earnings record for female horses. Her only loss was a narrow one in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Link: 2010 The Year In Sports

University of Connecticut basketball player Maya Moore finished third with 29 votes, followed by tennis star Serena Williams with 14. No one else got more than five votes.

Moore led UConn to its second straight unbeaten season and U.S. college championship in April. With a victory on Sunday against Ohio State, UConn can match the Division I college record 88-game winning streak set by John Wooden’s UCLA men’s team in 1974.

Williams — the 2002 and 2009 Female Athlete of the Year — was limited to six tournaments this year because of injuries, but she still won two Grand Slam titles.

Vonn also won a bronze medal in the super-G at the Vancouver Games. Then she became the first woman with three overall World Cup titles in a row since Petra Kronberger of Austria in 1990-92.

“Her dominance is very impressive. It’s really a testament to her work ethic,” said U.S. Olympic teammate Ted Ligety, an Alpine gold medalist at the 2006 Turin Games. “I can’t really name anybody that works harder than she does.”

Vonn needed all of that preparation to succeed at Vancouver, where she showed up as the center of attention — and with a banged-up right shin that made walking difficult. She wondered whether she’d be able to compete at all.

But after getting some extra time to rest because of weather delays, Vonn won the opening women’s race, the downhill.

“I don’t think it could have been a better moment. I dreamed about it a million times, but it was so much more emotional for me and for my family than I ever thought it would be. I was just crying the entire time,” Vonn said. “When I say that it means everything to me, it really does. The Olympics are what I work for. They’re why I spend so much time in the gym. It’s why my family moved (from Minnesota to Colorado) for me to ski race, so I could pursue my dream of being Olympic champion.”

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