Lindsey Vonn is one of the most decorated alpine skiers in history. A three-time Olympic medalist, her four overall World Cup championships are tied for most all-time among women while her 20 World Cup crystal globe titles are the most anyone has ever achieved. She is one of only six women to have won World Cup races in all five disciplines of alpine skiing, and she has won a staggering 82 World Cup races over the course of her storied career – another record among women. In a sport long dominated by Europeans, Lindsey Vonn put the United States on the map. Yet despite her fierce competition, devastating injuries were the greatest obstacles she had to overcome in route to cementing her rarified legacy. Against all odds, Lindsey Vonn prevailed, making her an exceptional symbol of our motto – don’t do they, DUYU!
Growing up in Minnesota with a father who was once a junior national ski champion, Lindsey Vonn was born to ski – and she wasted little time getting started. At the age of two (!) she got her first taste of powder on the slopes, and by the age of seven she was already skiing in Minnesota, Colorado, and Oregon year-round. Eventually, when Lindsey was in sixth grade, she and her family moved to Vail, Colorado where she would receive elite instruction at the Ski Club Vail (SCV), an alpine racing program that trains young and up-and-coming skiers.
SCV had an unconventional philosophy. Initially, skiers were not to be trained inside the gates of the academy. Rather, they were required to develop their skills in wild, more challenging terrain under difficult conditions. Evidently, there was a method to the madness. In 1999, at just 14 years old, Linsey won her first race – the cadets slalom event at Italy’s famed Trofeo Topolino di Sci Alpino. She became the first American female to win the event, bursting onto the global stage of skiing before she was even old enough to drive under supervision.
A few year later, after rising through the ranks of the U.S. ski team, Lindsey debuted at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. Racing in the slalom and combined events, her best finish was sixth place – admirable for her youth but nevertheless short of expectations. THEY SAID Lindsey was just hype. 17 and undeterred, Lindsey remained poised.
She amped up her training regimen and in 2003 won silver in downhill at the Junior World Championship in France. The following year she again won silver competing in the same event, this time at the U.S. Alpine Championships in Alaska. Then, that same year, she stood on a World Cup podium for the first time, winning bronze in the downhill competition in Italy.
By the time the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy rolled around, Lindsey Vonn was brimming with confidence, blazing the second-fastest time in her first practice run. However, she crashed in her second run and had to be hospitalized overnight. Despite suffering a bruised hip and bitter pain that was not subsidizing anytime soon, Lindsey elected to compete in the downhill event only two days after her accident. Although she finished eighth, her grit and determination to still represent her country on the world’s biggest stage won her the US. Olympic Spirit Award, as voted by American fans, fellow Team USA athletes, former U.S. Olympians, and members of the media.
“When you fall, get right back up. Just keep going, keep pushing it.”
The following year, Lindsey won her first major races in skiing, earning silver in both downhill and super-G at the 2007 World Championships in Sweden. In 2008, however, Lindsey Vonn truly began to dominate the sport. She won her first overall World Cup title, becoming only the second American woman to do so and the first in nearly 30 years, while winning both the World Cup season title in downhill and the U.S. Alpine Championships combined title for downhill and slalom. In 2009, she won several events in route to repeating as overall World Cup champion, and in 2010 she accomplished the same feat, even winning several races while skiing in an arm brace.
Coming off her legendary three-peat as overall World Cup champion, Lindsey Vonn was more ready than ever to win her first Olympic medal at the 2010 winter games in Vancouver, Canada. Although she bruised her shin in training, nothing was going to stop Lindsey from competing, and she won gold in her first event – the downhill – becoming the first American woman ever to win the event. In the super combined, she finished first in the downhill portion of the race but crashed in the slalom portion and was unable to finish. However, in the super-G, she placed third behind a first-place time of less than a second difference, adding another Olympic medal to her trophy cabinet. Finally, Lindsey Vonn had reached the summit of skiing.
“I want to keep pushing the limits to see what’s possible. That’s the nice thing about ski racing – no one is stopping you from going faster.”
As would become a prominent theme throughout her career, though, Lindsey Vonn was hardly finished. After losing the 2011 overall World Cup by a miniscule three points, she came back determined the following year and won her fourth overall World Cup title. In the process, she won her first giant slalom event, becoming only the sixth woman in history to have won all skiing events at least once.
At the 2013 World Championships in Austria, however, Lindsey suffered another devastating injury. Competing in the super-G event, she crashed and was airlifted to a hospital where the doctors informed her that she had torn her ACL and MCL. With the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia just a year away, no one expected Lindsey to be able to recover in time. Still, she pushed herself through rehab and remarkably found herself back in training and on track for Sochi. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be as she reinjured her knee, partially tearing the same ACL.
Lindsey was devastated. After suffering so many injuries throughout her career, THEY SAID she should retire. But Lindsey Vonn was not ready to hang up her skis. After grinding through another grueling rehabilitation, she triumphantly returned to skiing in 2015, winning the World Cup downhill event in Canada – only her second race back!
Several years filled with several victories later, she was ready to compete at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. There, five years removed from her horrific knee injury, Lindsey won bronze in the downhill event. In an emotional interview, she dedicated her medal to her recently passed grandfather, a Korean War veteran, and scattered some of his ashes near the course. At the end of that year, Lindsey Vonn announced her retirement from the sport.
“Our family never gives up and I never gave up. I kept working hard and I’m really proud of this medal and I know he is too.”
Lindsey Vonn left skiing on her own terms following yet another significant milestone in her career, defying the doubters who suggested she should have retired earlier. By then they should have known better, as Lindsey had made a habit out of beating the odds and carving out her own success not according to anyone else’s standards. Rivaled by few, her legacy in the sport will endure forever. Imagine how different her career might have turned out if Lindsey Vonn had DID THEY. “Don’t do they, DUYU!”