Vonn With The Wind
Lindsey Vonn learned how to ski a year after most children learn how to walk. At two years old, she snapped her boots into a pair of skis for the first time. Click. Like a seatbelt on a roller coaster carrying her up a mountainside, then plummeting back to Earth.
She was training with her grandfather in Wisconsin only a few years later. This wasn’t fun time on the slopes with grandpa and a jolly six-year-old Lindsey. No, this was a regimented training schedule for a world class athlete to be.
Her training moved from Wisconsin and Minnesota to Colorado and Oregon. By age 9, she was racing competitively and carving mountains like pumpkins. At 16, she made her World Cup debut in Park City, Utah. Those first 16 years were full of bumps and bruises, but nothing like what was about to unfold.
The most decorated female skier in history never knew anything but the sport. She didn’t have a normal childhood filled with friends and sleepovers. She got her high school diploma through an online school. Her parents uprooted the family and moved their five children to Colorado so Lindsey could focus on skiing. Her siblings were forced to hand over their normal lives, too. No pressure, Lindsey.
Vonn doesn’t have an underdog story because of those first 16 years. Dedicated and loving parents, her coach of a grandfather or her sibling support… those aren’t underdog obstacles. Vonn’s underdog story is a comeback story. Ten comeback stories, to be exact.
Many athletes suffer major injuries and a lot make incredible comebacks. But Vonn’s career? It looked like a blockbuster action film where the main character is invincible. Shot after shot, and they never stay down. (The name’s Vonn, Lindsey Vonn.)
Much to that plot line, Vonn was always shaken by injury, but never completely stirred. Ten times she suffered crucial setbacks. Ten times she returned to the top of the mountain.
From 2006 until Sunday’s retirement, Vonn suffered multiple concussions, torn ligaments in both knees, a broken left ankle, a fractured left knee, a broken right arm and countless bruises. Her knees no longer contained cartilage and she could feel her bones grinding together with every run. Six surgeries (that we know of) in the last 12 years, and Lindsey Vonn just kept winning.
“I have always pushed the limits of ski racing and it has allowed me to have amazing success but also dramatic crashes. I have never wanted the storyline of my career to be about injuries… My body is screaming at me to stop and it’s time for me to listen.”
Despite all of the setbacks – and the recovery time between each one – Vonn finished her career with three Olympic medals, seven World Championship medals, 20 World Cup titles and 82 World Cup race victories, just four short of Ingemar Stenmark’s record (86) for most all-time, male or female.
With winter soon coming to an end, we say goodbye to Lindsey Vonn, the world’s greatest female skier with a comeback, or ten, on every mountain.