Her career has been highlighted by tremendous success in competition, but one that has been repeatedly set back by injury. Still, Lindsey Vonn continues to press on and keep coming back. Now at age 31, Vonn has taken her four World Cup titles, Olympic medals and gone mainstream. Injures have caused her to miss nearly two full seasons — she is currently working back from a fractured knee — but has used the time and her popularity to grow the sport through appearances and her foundation.
Vonn was on hand as an honoree at the ANA Inspiring Women in Sports Conference. Goliath got the chance to sit down and speak with her, as she shared about her work to empower women, handling tremendous media attention and who it was that inspired her.
Goliath: You’re no stranger to challenges, and how you have overcome them has been very inspiring for others. Who were inspirational figures for you?
Lindey Vonn: Picabo Street was my childhood hero. I met her at an autograph signing when I was nine, and she was really the reason why I wanted to be an Olympian. She inspired me.
Of course I was competitive and of course I loved racing, but never really thought of it as a career until I met her. So I always looked up to her, and I actually raced with her one year on the team, when I was sixteen. It was crazy. I followed her around like a ghost.
I tried to learn as much as I could and she retired at the end of that season. So, I was lucky that I was able to get one year with her.
So how did you take that experience, learning from another skier, and use it for motivation in an otherwise very individual driven sport?
Well, I had my own kind of routine, my own work ethic, my own personality, but you can always learn something from someone. So I just watched. I was pretty quiet and I watched what she did, how she trained, I asked her questions, and she was gracious enough to answer most of them. I kind of used what she did, I worked what I could into my own plan and it worked.
But it’s not just Picabo, I’ve learned little things from everyone and that’s how I’ve progressed in my career. You can always try to get better.
Speaking of learning from others before, you got to the place in your career where you were handed the responsibility of growing the sport. Have have you used attention on you through the media to make a positive impact?
It’s hard. You know it’s a fine line, because I want to share my life, but I’m also aware that there are a lot of kids that follow me. So, I try to inspire them as much as I can and show them parts of my life.
I work hard. I work in the gym every day, and I like sharing some of my goofy family stuff that I do.
Right, you have a personality outside of the gym.
Yeah, that’s the thing. You want to show your personality. You don’t want to share too much private information, but at the same time, that’s me, that’s who I am.
I’m pretty funny and sarcastic. I do goofy things all the time, but I also work very hard. That’s the message that I try to portray, which is myself. I hope that comes across well.
Over the past year, you’ve done a lot of work with the Lindsey Vonn Foundation, and you’ve taken a different approach to making a difference.
I’m really excited about it. We’ve had a lot of great success so far. I had a couple camps last year. Our goal is to empower and inspire young women. It’s through grants, it’s through projects, with speakers and camps.
We just try to do everything we can. It’s not very specific, and that’s also for a reason. Everyone’s goals and dreams are different.