Vail celebrates ski champion Lindsey Vonn
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL – Lindsey Vonn’s favorite World Cup race course is St. Anton, Austria, a course so challenging that women’s races were canceled there after so many athletes had crashed.
“If there’s a challenging hill, I love to run it and push the limits and push myself,” Vonn said.
Vonn is back in Vail during her somewhat short offseason. Vail Mountain welcomed her with a public celebration Saturday afternoon at Eagle’s Nest, where hundreds of fans showed up to catch a glimpse of Vonn during her down time from ski racing.
Vonn ended her World Cup season this year defending three out of four titles. She sustained a concussion during the World Championships in the middle of the season, but it wasn’t enough to stop Vonn’s determination to be the best ski racer out there.
The concussion was a different kind of injury for Vonn because it meant she had to stop what she was doing in order to get better.
“My doctors told me to stay in a dark room, don’t raise your heart rate, don’t interact with anyone – don’t do anything,” Vonn said Saturday before the public celebration at Vail.
For someone like Vonn who thrives off ski racing and the adrenaline rush she gets out of it, that was a tall order.
“I sat in a hotel room and watched the World Championships on TV,” she said. “It was good to take time off, and it definitely was the reason why I was able to come back and still compete the rest of the season, but it was still really difficult to watch the World Championships on TV. It was awful.”
A concussion and 10 days of rest barely set Vonn back, though. She jumped right back into ski racing as if the brain injury had never happened.
“I trained one day in slalom to see if the concentration was still there and it was right back where it was, just like before,” she said. “Then I went to Sweden for the races and it was no problem.”
Vail Resorts Co-President John Garnsey greeted Vonn in Vail on Saturday and told the crowd that he can’t think of a person that is as passionate about skiing as Vonn.
“I don’t think I know of an individual that’s more focused, disciplined and has just an amazing work ethic,” Garnsey said.
Vonn hears kind words like that a lot in Vail. She said she feels so lucky to call Vail her hometown because of all of the support she gets here.
“Whenever I come back here, everyone’s just so happy that I’m back,” Vonn said. “It makes me feel good about myself, even if the season doesn’t always go the way I had hoped; I still feel like the community supports me.”
Vonn said she sees the kids who are her fans and it makes her focus on being a role model for them. It drives her to do even better as a ski racer, she said.
Some of those young fans got a chance to ask Vonn some questions on stage Saturday, things such as whether Vonn gets scared when she hits big jumps and what Vonn likes to do besides ski racing.
Turns out Vonn loves to play tennis and looks up to tennis star Roger Federer.
As for hitting the big jumps during races, Vonn just smiles and you can see in her facial expression why she’s a ski racing champion.
“I love going off jumps and I love skiing downhill,” Vonn said. “I love going fast. You’ve got to be fearless if you want to ski fast and win races, you have to have no fear.”
That lack of fear is something Vonn said she’s just always had. It’s just come natural for her, as if she were destined be a ski racer.
She can remember a time, though, when she wasn’t a fast skier – and then she met her childhood idol, Olympic gold medalist Picabo Street, when she was 9 years old.
“She inspired me to want to become an Olympian,” Vonn said. “I met her, and then I started working harder, training harder, and eventually I got faster and faster and eventually made it onto the U.S. Ski Team and then the Olympics.”
And while it might seem like all skiing all the time for Vonn, she said she’s using the next month to just enjoy some peace and quiet. Her brother, Reed Kildow, is a Vail ski instructor and she plans to spend some time with him in the coming weeks. She’s also planning to take her sister on vacation for a couple of days as a graduation present.
Vonn plans to jump back into ski training May 15, at the Olympic Training Center in San Diego. Then in July, it’s off to New Zealand.
“So I’ve got about a month and a half (from May 15) to get back in shape and get ready for skiing,” Vonn said. “For now, I’m just going to take some time off and really enjoy not having anything going on and not having a schedule.”
Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.