Vail’s Lindsey Vonn returns to US to new level of fame
NEW YORK – One of the world’s most dominant athletes finally gets recognized on the streets of New York.Her triumphant ski season over, Lindsey Vonn returned to her home country to discover a strange new phenomenon.”I get that in Europe, but it’s so bizarre – and great, though – to experience that in the U.S.,” Vonn told The Associated Press on Thursday.Perhaps it has something to do with all the pre-Olympic buzz about how Vonn was going to be the star of the Vancouver Games, then the drama of a shin injury that threatened to quash her hopes, and finally that joyous celebration when she won the elusive gold medal in her first race.Her fame creates the opportunity to do a lot of “cool stuff,” as Vonn put it, which will keep her busy for the next few weeks. But all that hype and hurt and happiness is also exhausting, and that has Vonn looking forward to late April, when she’ll finally take some time off.”I feel like now that the Olympics are over, I can just take a deep breath and really recharge,” Vonn said. “I want to keep pushing strong for the next four or five years, however much longer I would choose to go for. You really need at least one good year when you’re having not as much to do in the springtime, because our seasons are so long. … It’s tough to always be pushing through, especially with injuries. The Olympics and world championships are always a really stressful time.”So this is really important for me to get rested up enough so I’m really excited to ski again come winter.”Vonn will return to the gym in mid-May, but she expects she’ll spend only two weeks training in Austria this offseason instead of the month she did last year. She’s hoping to visit her in-laws in Florida and play some relaxing golf once that long-awaited vacation comes next month.But first, there’s much to do, which will have Vonn shuttling among New York, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. She’ll be working with sponsors such as Procter & Gamble, attending fashion events, even getting a dress made for her by designer Tory Burch.And the best part: “Law & Order” creator Dick Wolf heard she was a big fan of the show, so he cast her in an episode.Vonn will be home in Vail, Colo., for a few days starting later this week before hitting the road again. Her many injuries don’t bother her much as long as she’s not skiing.The bruised right knee gets a little sore when she walks too much, and the broken right pinkie hurts sometimes when she shakes hands. Vonn said she made the mistake of trying to go without the small pink cast, which caused the finger to balloon to twice its size.Of course, there will be a lot of hands to shake the next few weeks. Vonn hopes her newfound fame can remind Americans that skiing doesn’t stop just because the Olympics are over. She said she’s received a lot of Facebook and Twitter messages from fans saying, “This is so sad – I won’t be able to see you for another four years.””And I’m like, no, actually, we still have a World Cup,” Vonn said with a laugh.She lets them know they can watch online. That will be the real test of her celebrity – how many Americans tune in as she chases that fourth straight World Cup overall title next season.