Lindsey Vonn on retiring: ‘I would love to keep going, but physically I don’t think I can do it’

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After finishing fifth in the super-G at the PyeongChang Olympics and having to deal with a bunch of Deplorables, Lindsey Vonn won the bronze medal in Downhill. This is her third Olympic medal, having won the bronze for the super-G and the gold for Downhill in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. Since Vancouver, Lindsey battled several injuries, including a knee injury that kept her from competing in Sochi. This medal was especially emotional because Lindsey had just lost her grandfather before she made what looks to be her final Olympic run. According to Lindsey, she’d love to keep going but she doesn’t think her body will let her.

Lindsey Vonn is leaving the 2018 Winter Olympics with a bronze medal – and her head held high. “I’m really happy with my performance. I gave it everything I had,” she tells The 33-year-old world champion ski racer, who has competed in four Olympic Games, is proud of her accomplishments, but can’t help but feel a bit melancholy this time around since she is “99.9 percent” sure that she will never step foot on an Olympic podium ever again.

At the 2013 World Championships, Vonn suffered a knee injury serious enough that it stopped her from competing in the Sochi Olympics a year later. Although she recovered in time for this year’s Games, she doesn’t think she can compete at her highest level in 2022. “In my mind and in my heart, I would love to keep going another four years, but physically I just don’t think that I can do it.”

[From Cosmopolitan]

I unloaded groceries from my car yesterday and was so tired I considered retiring from all physical activity forever, I can only imagine the toll Olympic training can take. Athletes know their bodies. They know when they’ve peaked. I think both Lindsey and Michael Phelps are listening to their bodies over their egos. Lindsey isn’t totally done, though. She told Cosmo that there is one last record she’d like: World Cup wins. Lindsey has 81 World Cup wins and is second to Ingemar Stenmark who has 86 wins. Lindsey said she will keep skiing until she can at least meet his number. That’s a really smart way to head towards retirement from both a personal and a professional angle.

I have a small pet peeve when people talk about medals: they are all huge accomplishments. Yes, gold medals are to be celebrated, but if someone is standing on the podium, they’ve accomplished more than 99.999% of the population. When Lindsey won this bronze, everyone acted as if it was so tragic. The discussion was framed as “she’s still going to hold her head up high,” – she should! She won her third Olympic medal. My favorite answer to this is from figure skating favorite Michelle Kwan. When was asked how she felt about losing the gold Michelle said, “I didn’t lose the gold, I won the silver.” Darn right you did. Just like Lindsey saying she’s really proud of her run. She should be, it was a bronze medal-winning effort.


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31 Responses to “Lindsey Vonn on retiring: ‘I would love to keep going, but physically I don’t think I can do it’”

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  1. Maum says:

    I guess it’s relative.
    Of course a bronze medal in any sport is to be celebrated but in her case her Olympics were disappointing.
    Considering her pedigree and ability there is no doubt that she was aiming for at least a win.

    In the same way as Hirscher and Shiffrin are going to look back at their lack of medal in the slalom and be gutted.

    • rrabbit says:

      Can’t win em all. Hirscher has two Gold medals, Shiffrin has a Gold and a Silver. They will be happy.

      • Maum says:

        They will be happy but not 100%. I was reading an interview with Martin Fourcade a French biathlete- possibly the best ever. He won 3 golds at these Olympics and has become the most titled French athlete in the history of the Olympics- 5 golds.

        He was saying that his motivation is not winning but the fear of losing. I thought it was an interesting perspective! he was very vocal at his disappointment at missing out on what could have been another gold.
        I guess when you know that on your best day you are unbeatable it must be frustrating- you lose to yourself rather than the other competitors.

        Hirscher mentioned the snow condition that hampered his slalom effort- he was clearly very frustrated.

    • Bridget says:

      That’s making a pretty big leap about the psyches of people you don’t know.

      Shiffrin, now as a 3 time Olympic Medalist, is one of the most decorated US skiers ever. Just because one skier is motivated by the “fear of losing” doesn’t mean that they all are.

    • Merritt says:

      She might have been aiming for a win but so were most others in the event. Also, there is a reason why few people are able to medal in her events at her age. The sport takes too great a toll on the body.

  2. SK says:

    I think the gold thing might be more an American thing. I know we are always SUPER proud of anyone who medals at all. I think you guys have a culture that is so focused on #1 that you lose sight of how significant it is just to BE an Olympian and compete and to medal on top of that? Wow that is a huge deal. Note that when I say “you” I mean generally as a culture, because obviously some Americans do get this (like Hecate!) 😉

    • Clare says:

      The BBC were almost embarrassingly proud of GB athletes coming like 6th and 8th, or even making it to the final – so I agree this is all relative to expected success.

      Having said that the BBC still also dedicated tonnes of time to Torville and Dean who medaled like 30 years ago…so there is that extreme too.

      • Bex says:

        Ugh, the Torvill and Dean love in on the BBC drove me batty after a while, especially during the ice dance competition obviously (I know, I know, they’re icons, Bolero was iconic, but he in particular loves himself so much that I just couldn’t with it)

        I read an interesting article by Sasha Cohen the other day about retiring at 25. Must be incredibly odd to have to totally redefine yourself so young after a lifetime of dedication to one goal.

    • Bridget says:

      Not an American thing. An NBC thing. There haven’t been a ton of winter Olympic stars and they built up Vonn to a crazy extent. They did this with the figure skaters too – most are simply not in the same class as the top contenders, but you wouldn’t know if you watched NBC.

      • Merritt says:

        US figure skaters aren’t in the same league because the federation waited on changing jump limitations for younger skaters. However while Russia might churn out champions in the Ladies event, they don’t last because the system is too hard on them. Broken bodies that have medals isn’t much of a success in my opinion.

      • Bex says:

        I’m a dedicated follower of all the figure skating disciplines and could not believe how hard NBC went on your competitors in Ladies. Anyone who had paid even the slightest attention to the last quad knew that they were, barring total meltdown from multiple women, highly unlikely to come close to the podium. If they wanted hype, should’ve gone for the ice dancers where the US had three legit bronze medal contenders. Yet they seemed to go a bit under the radar bizarrely? The pressure they heaped on Nathan Chen wasn’t fair either.

      • Bridget says:

        US Figures skaters aren’t in the same league because it’s primarily a sport only for those who can afford it. Not to mention, there are a lot of hugely questionable practices going on with the Russian Federation right now, with the way they are just burning through and then discarding these young women. Yes, the US needs to make a lot of changes, but I’m hoping that it’s more along the lines of some of the other successful federations.

      • Bex says:

        I wonder how the Skate Canada development system works. Sure, they had Virtue/Moir back from retirement and they’re probably the greatest ever, but as a whole the team pretty much maxed out their medal potential, with everyone but poor Daleman performing about as well as they could, and you don’t tend to hear horror stories. I wonder if there’s any major difference in how the two countries develop their skaters.

        Saw a few Twitter commentators saying that the US need to look at how they develop the mental toughness of their gymnasts. I really don’t think that’s a road you want to be going down.

      • ms says:

        NBC always does this, and it drives me crazy. They hire interviewers like Andrea Joyce to ask questions like “Why are you such a massive failure?” (being slightly hyperbolic, but seriously, she asks terrible, hurtful questions seconds after an athlete doesn’t meet their own expectations). They even incorporate the Today show interviews during the Olympics to highlight the perspective of “failure.” Their plan of action is to highlight weak drama by buildling up the most popular American athletes to impossible standards and then treat anything but less-than-gold as a failure.

        If you made it to the Olympics, you’re not a failure.

      • Bex says:

        Andrea Joyce is horrible. I always felt so awful for the poor teenage gymnasts who’d just been crushed who then had to go and relive it all with her.

  3. lala says:

    as a former ski – racer myself I have enormous respect and admiration of Lindsey. Ski racing takes such a toll on your ligaments and joints, you just cannot go on forever. And it is a very risky sport, the injuries you get are no fun there. She is one of the most female ski racers in the history of winter sports, so I did not understand that bashing she got over her performance in Korea. Some people are so far away from the topic “sports” they just should keep their mouth shut.

    • LilLil says:

      It is incredibly tasking. Janica Kostelić, who is our best skier ever ( and by some regarded as the best female skier ever) had 10 knee surgeries. It’s crazy.

  4. Marlene says:

    Just FYI, she finished sixth (tied) in the super-G, not fifth.

  5. Maria F. says:

    I think Olympics are always a different ballgame. A lot of favourites do not meet the expected goals, probably a case of the nerves or competitors without any pressure on them being able to give their best.
    I think as long as somebody gives their best on the particular day, even if they are beaten by others, they can be proud of their achievements.

  6. peanutbuttr says:

    Ski Racing is that one sport where luck has the most effect. In tennis, you may sometimes get a player ranked 1000 beating Serena Williams but, unless that player is eventually destined to be a top ranked player, it will even out and she’ll lose before the end. In ski racing, given the right course and the right weather conditions, an average competitor could conceivably win, as we saw with that Czech snowboarder who won the super G.

    Lindsey’s World Cup record to me is more impressive and a better proof of her skiing abilities because it shows she did it over time and over many different courses

    • rrabbit says:

      There also is a subtle difference between Olympics and normal World Cup races.

      The most important normal World Cup races are on the same courses every year. Experienced racers such as Vonn have raced those same courses many times over the years, and are very familiar with them.

  7. grabbyhands says:

    I will never understand the hyper competitive notion that coming in second means you’re just the first loser, particularly where the Olympics is concerned.

    Just getting there is an accomplishment for so many athletes, for a variety of reasons. Making it to the podium at all is an amazing prize. Seeing athletes get up there and whine about it is just so gross. I get that you would be disappointed that your goal had been to get gold and you got silver or bronze instead, but to behave as if it is some kind of devastating blow in ridiculous, not to mention, an insult to every athlete there. So many of these elite athletes act as if a gold medal is owed to them instead of earned simply because they’ve been anointed as “winners”.

  8. anniefannie says:

    Am I the only one that gets a whiff of grandiosity from Vonn? She supposedly snubbed her teammates and refused to pose in hotos w/them.
    I’m not surprised she praised her performance because she swanned around her competition and is far to proud to admit disappointment, and ya I’m not a fan….

  9. Pyritedigger says:

    I remember reading somewhere that silver medal winners were more likely to be dissatisfied than bronze winners. kind of like that Canadian woman hockey player who had a freak out on stage.

    but at least she was an actual player. these people who take this so personally who watch from the couch need to get a clue.

    • Marlene says:

      “…silver medal winners were more likely to be dissatisfied than bronze winners.”

      That stat is from events with a knockout format where there is an “extra” match between the losing semifinalists to determine 3rd (bronze) and 4th place. The bronze medalists will have finished by winning their last match, unlike the silver winners who lost their final match. So yes, it probably applies to the Canadian hockey player you mentioned, but I’m not sure it applies to Vonn.

  10. Josephine says:

    I loved watching her, was thrilled that she got any medal. She really leaves everything on the course. I think I heard correctly that she was the oldest to medal in Alpine skiing, or maybe oldest woman. Her accomplishments are extraordinary, and all the people whining about her not getting more or better medals are ridiculous. I’m frankly sick of people thinking that these athletes “owe” us medals, owe us golds. To me, the Olympics are about watching extraordinary athletes and dedicated people from all nations giving it their all, and that’s award enough.

  11. Bridget says:

    It was hard watching the aftermath of Vonn’s final medal run, because you could see it etched across her face that this was it. This Olympics she was one of the faces of the NBC hype machine, and they focused huge swaths of programming around her and her runs. Anything less than a win was going to be perceived as disappointing (and Vonn getting a little cocky in her practice runs didn’t quite help).

    And of course she wants to go for those lost World Cup victories, there’s a high statistical likelihood that Shiffrin will overtake her, so Vonn wants the laurels while she can get them.

  12. thaisajs says:

    I got incredibly tired of having Lindsey Vonn shoved in my face every time I watched the Olympics. Really, it was such overkill. Yes, I know she’s blonde and pretty but she’s also old (for doing this sort of taxing sport, not in real life), and I don’t think anyone really expected her to medal other than NBC marketing execs. So kudos to her on the bronze but its time to hang up the skis and move on.

  13. Michelle says:

    Although I can respect Vonn as an athlete and all of her accomplishments, I really got tired of her face on my TV during the Olympics. Perhaps I did not look hard enough, but I didn’t see any other women skiers in full make-up while competing. I just can’t with her because every time I see her, I think back to the Masters when she was dating Tiger Woods and she wore that hideous green dress against protocol during the family day and acted like she was mom of the year. Ugh! Too much for me..

  14. jetlagged says:

    I hope all these athletes remember, whether they win medals or not, that there is life after the Olympics. I feel like athletes (or anyone really) that define their entire existence by whether they succeed at one singular event in their lives are just asking for misery.

    My mom used to volunteer with a woman who had won two Olympic medals when she was younger, and the woman never mentioned it. My mom didn’t know for years. The woman had a husband, family, friends, successful career, an all-around wonderful life – but her past as an Olympic medalist was not something she gave much thought to. She was proud of her accomplishment, but decades later it had little to do with her everyday life. It certainly didn’t define her.

  15. GoldenGIrl says:

    Her body is wrecked. If she doesn’t stop now, she risks being permanently damaged as she ages. She’s has a long illustrious career and no point in breaking yourself to pieces, Lindsay.