Freud: Lindsey Vonn retiring? In so many ways, no (column)
January 22, 2019
We welcome you to "Lindsey Vonn Watch 2019."
Alas, the greatest skier in American history took 15th, ninth and DNF'd in three World Cup races in Cortina, Italy, last weekend in her return to the circuit and brought up the subject of retiring on the spot, sending the media into overdrive.
Make no mistake, she's retiring in December at Lake Lindsey, aka Lake Louise, Alberta. And make no mistake, she's not the retiring type.
By which we mean, she is not exactly allergic to the spotlight.
One of my favorite Facebook comments posted to our assorted stories in the last few days was, "Honestly, who gives a (hoot). She has become a drama queen."
I don't give a hoot about the word that wasn't hoot. It's the "become a drama queen."
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Yes, just in January 2019, she's turned into a drama queen? No, that happened a long time ago in a galaxy, far, far away.
Heck, on Tuesday, Vonn tweeted the Voltaire quote, "Each player must accept the cards life deals him or her: but once they are in hand, he or she alone must decide how to play the cards in order to win the game."
Not knocking philosophy, but this sounds a lot like she's auditioning for the role of Blanche DuBois in "Streetcar." (Yes, the Oscar nominations came out Tuesday, but Vonn was snubbed.)
There is a pattern
Let's be clear: Drama queen is not a pejorative. Vonn, with 82 World Cup wins, has earned the right to be a drama queen. She's that good.
Yeah, you can go on about, "There is no ‘I’ in team," but, in sports, there are different rules for different players. If Michael Jordan wants to spend the night gambling in Atlantic City, New Jersey, the night before a playoff game, then-Chicago Bulls Phil Jackson isn't going to bench him. (Jackson didn't; the Bulls lost to the Knicks, but came back to win the series.)
Vonn comes with baggage and, throughout her career, a lot of it has played out in public.
- She went through a very public break and reconciliation with her father.
- Then-Lindsey Kildow went through a very public marriage and divorce with her husband, Thomas Vonn.
- In keeping with her marriage, her ensuing love life seems to put her the spotlight with A-list superstars like Tiger Woods and P.K. Subban.
- Before the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia, she had a shin injury which seemed to imperil her chances of competing. After a tearful news conference, she promptly went out and won the gold in the downhill.
- She pretty much overshadowed the women's World Cup in 2013, including a stop at Raptor in Beaver Creek, with her comeback attempt from her right-knee injury.
- Once healthy, in came the cameras for her dramatic — in fairness, it was dramatic — comeback for "Lindsey Vonn: The Climb," with NBC Sports, complete with one side of her phone conversations with … Tiger.
- And, now, like sands through the hourglass, Vonn is pondering retirement very publicly.
Not her style
Is she dinged up and not able to ski to up to the level of her prime? Of course. She's been on the tour for 16 years and you don't have multiple injuries, you really haven't been trying.
I've often said in this space that her wreck at the 2013 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Schladming, Austria, would have ended the career of lesser mortals. She has 23 World Cup wins since that injury. To put that in perspective, Ted Ligety has 25 wins in his career and a big goose egg since he got hurt.
Could Lindsey call it a career today or before Lake Louise? Yes, anything's possible, but it's just not her style.
There's also the fact that Vonn returned from a competitive hiatus of 10 months, wasn't skiing at her best and still finished 15th and ninth in World Cup downhills, while the DNF came in a super-G, a discipline in which one does not train the course beforehand.
While not to her dominating standards — she's won 11 times in Cortina — those aren't "bad" results. Even Vonn is not immune to rust. Were she finishing 39th and 41st in the two Cortina downhills, one might think otherwise.
Seventy-five percent — or whatever percentage she brings — of Vonn is still a lot better than a lot of the World Cup field.
Training for this weekend's speed races in Garmisch, Germany, starts on Thursday. She'll be there. The Worlds kick off Feb. 5 in Sweden with the super-G. She'll be there. And one more go-round at Lake Louise awaits.
She's too much of a competitor.
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