Lindsey Vonn: ‘Keep fighting, keep trying’ as she heads for 2018 Olympics | SteamboatToday.com

Lindsey Vonn: ‘Keep fighting, keep trying’ as she heads for 2018 Olympics

John LaConte
jlaconte@vaildaily.com

COPPER MOUNTAIN — For most of her career, Lindsey Vonn was relatively injury free.

After achieving her first World Cup win in December of 2004, she managed to go the next nine years without missing any major amount of time on the circuit, a rare feat in ski racing. In those nine years, Vonn racked up nearly 60 World Cup wins in downhill, super-G, slalom, giant slalom and the combined. She won gold and bronze at the 2010 Olympics, and also won a silver medal in the downhill at the 2011 World Alpine Ski Championships.

Then in February of 2013, Vonn had a major crash, forcing her to miss the 2014 Olympics. After winning a giant slalom race in January of 2013, it would be more than 22 months before she tasted victory again.

"I was obviously very disappointed and devastated, frustrated that I missed Sochi," Vonn said.

After tearing a ligament in her knee in that crash in 2013, Vonn returned in the 2014-15 season and won eight more World Cup races. But that injury would prove to be the first in a string of breaks and bruises that became hard to keep up with for her fans in Vail.

BREAKS AND BRUISES

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Vonn began the 2015-16 season by breaking her ankle in preseason training in August, but was able to race most of the season, winning another nine World Cup races between December of 2015 and February of 2016. In late February of 2016, she crashed and fractured her knee in a few places, causing her to miss the rest of that season. Getting back to racing in November of 2016, Vonn crashed in training and severely fractured her arm. Yet she still managed to race that season and even earned a win in January of 2017.

"Once I got things going at the end of last season, I was right back where I left off," Vonn said as the 2017-18 season was getting underway.

But the season did not start strong for Vonn. She missed the podium in November of 2017, crashing in Lake Louise, the venue where she has found the most success in her career. She then crashed again at a race in December, suffering spinal joint dysfunction in her lower back. Things were not looking good.

Yet, in a surprise to many, Vonn returned to the top of the podium the following weekend, winning a super-G in Val D'Isere, France, for her 78th career win.

"The physical issues that I've had made it hard to have confidence in my body, so it was mentally challenging," Vonn told The Associated Press following the race. "That's been the biggest thing in the last few weeks — keep going, keep fighting, keep trying, keep picking yourself back up, especially after the crash in Lake Louise."

'IT'S A DANGEROUS SPORT'

The confidence boost will be exactly what she needs heading into the Olympics.

"As long as I'm healthy and I'm confident, then I'll be in a great position when I get to Pyongchang," Vonn told the Vail Daily in November. "Everyone asks me if I'm afraid, after so many crashes do I take my foot off the gas pedal? And while I am smarter and I try to manage my risk better than I have in the past, it's still ski racing … you can try to manage risk as much as you want, but at the end of the day it's a dangerous sport."

Always positive, Vonn said she doesn't plan on slowing down.

"I'm 33, I've been injured quite a few times, but my passion for the sport has never changed," she said. "Since I started skiing and started racing when I was 8 years old, I've loved what I do, and I don't want to stop doing it. As long as I'm enjoying it and I don't have to use too much duct tape to hold my body together, I'm good."

Along the way, Vonn is chasing another record, Ingemar Stenmark's all time World Cup wins tally of 86. She does, however, admit her focus should be on Pyongchang rather than the regular World Cup circuit.

"I'm focused on winning the World Cups, but just getting to February healthy is the only thing I should be really focused on," Vonn said.

And as a final goal, she wants to leave the sport of ski racing in a better place than in was before she started competing.

"I try to ski like the men," she said. "I try to be dynamic and powerful and really create speed where most people can't. In that way, I hope to leave a positive impact on the sport, and really raise the level of women's skiing."