Ski racing is a tough sport. The men and women who compete in it are all out of the ordinary – but there are a few who stand out even more from the crowd.
U.S. superstar alpine racer Lindsey Vonn is certainly one of them.
One of the few women to have tasted victory at every one of the five recognized alpine skiing disciplines, Vonn inspires respect from opponents and devotion from fans.
Whenever Vonn is racing, all eyes will turn to her. Whether she’s on old, iced-up slopes or brand new cheer mats, you can never count her out.
Now well into her thirties, at an age when many other skiers have retired from the sport, Vonn is still winning at the very highest level.
An injury is the only thing that has ever stopped her, and even then she has always battled back to the top.
Lindsey Vonn’s Early Achievements
Born into the icy winters of Minnesota, it was hardly surprising that Vonn was skiing almost as soon as she could walk.
By the age of ten, she was a part of the intense development program run by Erich Sailer while the Olympic champion Picabo Street was her inspiration.
Even today, Vonn talks of Street as the woman she most wanted to emulate. Years later, Street came back into Vonn’s life as her crucial mentor.
Minnesota was cold, but it didn’t have the elite-level facilities a star in the making like Vonn needed. That’s why in her mid-teens, she moved with her family to Vail, Colorado.
Luckily, online study programs were available, so she was able to take classes at University of Missouri High School without the need to be pulled away from her ski training center.
Vonn turned her incredible potential into something more solid in 1999 when she went to Italy’s Trofeo Topolino course and came back with the cadet slalom title. No female American had previously managed to do that.
That proved to be a great springboard, and Vonn performed consistently high in junior competition.
Before long, the senior national team managers had seen enough to know they needed Vonn on their team.
Vonn made her World Cup debut in Utah in November 2000, still aged just 16.
Sixteen months later, she achieved her dream of being selected for the United States team at the Winter Olympics.
Vonn raced hard and managed an impressive sixth place in the combined competition. Still, she knew she needed more experience, so she was back to junior competition in 2003.
Lindsey Vonn’s Career Medal Haul
- Winter Olympic Games: 1 gold, 2 bronze
- World Championships: 2 gold, 3 silver, 2 bronze
- Junior World Championships: 2 silver, 1 bronze
- World Cup overall titles: 4
Lindsey Vonn’s Career Highlights
Her first international medal was the silver she won in the Junior World Championship in France in March that year.
However, her tiredness on a long cycle ride with a friend and her father convinced her that she needed to step up her game in training, on large playground mats, and in the gym.
This was a crucial moment in Vonn’s career, the point at which she moved from being a very good skier to being a potentially great one.
In 2004 Vonn got her first victory at World Cup level, with a win at Lake Louise in December.
She was picked for the World Championships in Bormio, but family problems resulted in her finishing no higher than fourth.
Another big moment was around the corner, though. In 2005 Vonn hired a completely new coaching team and also signed a major contract with Red Bull.
Vonn’s preparations for the 2006 Winter Olympics were hit by a crash in training.
She battled back to take two top-eight finishes, but it could surely have been so much more, as she showed when picking up two silvers in the 2007 World Championships.
Even that was small potatoes when setting aside what Vonn was about to do – and that wasn’t picking up some handy interlocking floor tiles for her home.
She won the overall World Cup crown for the first time in 2008, something only one American woman (Tamara McKinney back in 1983) had ever done before.
She also smashed the U.S. record for downhill wins in a single season, taking an astounding ten victories.
In 2009 she proved to be even better, with not only the overall and downhill titles but the Super-G championship as well coming her way.
Vonn’s Best Known Quotes
With all eyes on the American, it’s not surprising that Vonn has often been asked to give a quote to the media and her fans.
With the same assurance and flair she displays on the slopes, she’s made some memorable statements, including:
“When you fall, get right back up. Just keep going, keep pushing it.”
– Every ski racer falls, it’s part of the deal. But it’s best to accept it and move on, rather than letting it play on their minds.
“If you’re having fun, then everything else will come easy to you.”
– Skiing isn’t a chore to Vonn, it’s what she’s always wanted to do with her life. You ski better when your mind is in a good place.
“That’s the nice thing about ski racing – no one is stopping you from going faster.”
– A mark of the real greats is their incredible hunger to win. It doesn’t matter how many times Vonn has stood on the podium, she always wants to do it again.
“The Olympics are what I work for. They’re why I spend so much time in the gym.”
– No matter how naturally talented you are, there’s no substitute for hard work if you want to make it to the very top – and in skiing, Olympic gold is the ultimate prize.
“I use men’s skis because, honestly, they work better for me.”
– Vonn doesn’t force herself to do what everyone else does. If an unorthodox approach helps you be a better skier, don’t be afraid to take it.
Lindsey Vonn’s Amazing Skiing Style
The 2010 season was a total triumph for this spectacular ski racer. She won the overall, downhill – Super-G, and combined World Cup titles.
In the process, she passed Bode Miller’s mark of 33 World Cup wins to become the most successful American skier of all time.
She’d have traded it all, though, for what happened in Torino, Italy – she, at last, claimed Olympic gold in the downhill, adding a bronze in the Super-G.
Vonn was now truly at the top of her game, and at times it seemed like she could only be beaten if she made a mistake.
The hugely demanding combined event was her specialty in the years 2010 through 2012 when she won the World Cup title every time.
The last year also brought her another overall World Cup crown. Vonn’s skiing style is something that everyone notices and her fans adore.
At a full six feet, she’s tall for a female skier, and that led her to use an unconventional, aggressive style right from the early days.
Thankfully, her coaches on durable outdoor floor mats and on the slopes themselves have understood that it works for her – she can take turns at angles that most of her rivals couldn’t even dream about.
A lesser competitor might well have given up after what happened to Vonn in 2013. In Austria for the World Championships, she crashed heavily and suffered both fractures and ligament tears.
Vonn elected to have reconstructive surgery on her knee, pushing past the pain as she trained that fall. She was racing again by December.
Maybe it was too soon because she suffered a sprain and missed the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Some fans wondered whether she’d ever return, but her immense mental strength got her back to the top, and she had an excellent 2015 season, claiming two more titles.
After two more solid seasons, Vonn cemented her reputation with a bronze medal in the 2018 Games. After all she’d been through, it felt like gold.
Photos from: ESPA / depositphotos.com, feijue / depositphotos.com and Hans_Chr / depositphotos.com.