Carnes: ‘The Final Season’ worth every minute | VailDaily.com

Carnes: ‘The Final Season’ worth every minute

My earliest memories of the legend-in-the-making were the Vancouver Olympics of 2010, where she took the gold medal in the downhill.

And it was all uphill from there.

Although I saw her live a number of times here in Happy Valley, and only once actually winning a race (the Dec. 2011 super-G in Beaver Creek), nothing compared to the winter of 2014 in Dr. Steadman’s waiting room.
Our 14-year-old was impatiently biding his time to have his knee inspected again by Super Doc, when Lindsey Vonn suddenly limped into the waiting room on her own crutches. There was no one else in the room except his buffoonish father who was desperately attempting to act like it was no big deal.

It was though.

As soon as they made eye contact, she smiled that perfected Lindsey smile and limped over to chat and compare injuries and the falls that caused them. 

It made a deep impression on both Carnes men.

Later that month she demonstrated for other athletes how to handle season-ending injuries with class and style as she walked down Bridge Street showing photos of herself to tourists asking if they recognized the Olympian in the photo.

She also spent a few hours behind a Vail Resorts ticket desk masquerading as an employee-in-training, asking unsuspecting guests to sing for discounts and even speaking German to surprise one Bavarian couple.

A few years earlier, in Nov. 2011, she garnered national attention by accepting an invitation from Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy sophomore Parker McDonald to attend prom, just one of the many aspects of a normal childhood she never had the pleasure of experiencing.

Oh, the price one must pay to be the most decorated American skier in history, not to mention the volumes of ligament surgeries and multiple injuries such as broken arms, ankles, concussions and being slammed on social media sites for having the unmitigated gall to publicly voice a political opinion.

And then last weekend we watched HBO’s “Lindsey Vonn: The Final Season,” and my respect and admiration for her jumped up to 11.

The film is an emotional rollercoaster as the world-class rehabber endures injury after injury, yet each time climbs back to the upper echelon of her sport, further establishing herself as the perhaps the greatest ski racer of all time, regardless of gender.

Mixed with self-effacing humor, it is highlighted when Bode Miller was asked what it’s like when falling on a downhill ski run: “Going 80 miles per hour in your car, and you just hop out.”

Ouch.

A vulnerable Vonn purposely lowers her guard throughout the 90-minute film as she — at times tearfully — admits the frustrations of feeling “like a commodity” in the industry while allowing viewers to observe the complex relationships within her own family, especially her father.

A true behind-the-scenes look, this isn’t your typical superficially sleek sports documentary, but a powerful insight into the sacrifices a true sports legend endures as an iconic career comes to an end.

I highly recommend it for any ski racing fan, especially for us around here lucky enough to watch it up close.

Richard Carnes, of Avon, writes weekly. He can be reached at poor@vail.net.