Lindsey Vonn finishes with final podium and sense of YOLO
Special to the Daily
ARE, Sweden — In case it’s not obvious, Lindsey Vonn runs her life on the hard-charging notion that you only live once.
Placing a crowning finish on her season Thursday, March 15, at the World Cup Finals in Are, Sweden with a decisive third-place finish in the super-G, the 33-year-old was contemplating prospects of either staying at it for another few years or drinking boat drinks at a pool in a retirement home.
“I’ll hang out at the beach. I’ll definitely need a lot of low impact workouts and a pretty relaxed situation … maybe water aerobics. I’ll be in there with the retired folks,” she laughed. “I’ll be in the retirement home in Florida at age 45 … in my floatie in the pool with a tropical drink and an umbrella in my hand.”
But for now, she’ll soak up her latest wave of domination and nurture it for next winter.
“I’m really happy,” she said of her final race of the season, which took place on a sunny day with frigid temperatures and gusty winds at the top of the track. The podium was only her second of the season in super-G. “It’s nice to end on a positive note. When the wind is like this, it’s difficult to come in and get a good result. I could have easily been 10th. I’m going to use this leading into next season.”
Vonn is returning to Vail this weekend and will prepare for her March 31 fundraiser for the Lindsey Vonn Foundation, her nonprofit organization aimed at empowering girls to fulfill their dreams through education, athletics and confidence-building. But beyond a spring race camp back in Europe, the coveted beach vacation and a summer oscillating between homes in Vail and Los Angeles, Vonn’s schedule is uncharacteristically open.
“It’s like, woah … I have so much time. It’s a different feeling,” she said. “I’ve been so focused the last few years. My friends were kind of irritated with me the last two years because I was so focused on the Olympics. I was like, I can’t do this, can’t do that. Now it’s going to be nice to let loose a little bit, maybe go out to dinner sometime.”
And here is Vonn back to her old ways of landing on every podium. Mathematically, especially at the rate she’s ended the season, Vonn could beat Ingemar Stenmark’s World Cup record (she has 82; he has 86), before 2018 is even finished. But surely her drive to continue competing will surge beyond that goal. This is Vonn’s conundrum.
“It’s mostly a matter of health. I certainly don’t lack motivation or enjoyment. That’s what happens when you get older. You get bored of it and you want to move on and do something different. I certainly don’t. If I can keep going longer, I will,” she said. “But the will to work hard and keep grinding has never been a problem for me. I also don’t have a boyfriend, so I don’t need to think about starting a family or whatever. That’s the other reason why women want to retire early. That’s why I’m the oldest World Cup winner … Because everyone else starts a family.”
When the suggestion came up of adding online dating to her yet-to-be-filled summer schedule, Vonn said cyber thieves have already taken the reins.
“I know some people are using my image and likeness because someone was like, ‘I saw you on Tinder. Let’s go out. I’m like, are you kidding me?”
All joking aside, Vonn expresses gratitude a lot these days. Landing on a podium never feels like old hat to the world’s most winning woman. She is genuinely, deeply thrilled every time it happens … especially capping her first injury-free season in three years.
“It’s been a very long year working so hard for the Olympics, but it’s been a good year, positive in many ways. I’m really grateful for my Olympic medal and that I got a couple more notches closer to Ingemar,” she said. “I’m lucky to still be here. That’s how I feel. I’m very thankful for the opportunity. I love ski racing. I love being out here. I love having the pressure on me and the position of being a contender. I’m grateful. That’s the message I have because that’s the feeling I have.”
That means as long as she remains one of her sport’s top contenders, Vonn plans to stick with it.
“I do want to walk when I’m 40. It’s hard to tell what’s going to happen, what my injuries will look like down the road,” she said. “It’s hard to say, OK, I want to quit now so I can walk later. At the same time, you only live once, so what’s the point? You have a body that needs to be used … so you might as well wear it out.”