Her knees ‘broken beyond repair,’ U.S. skier Lindsey Vonn retiring after worlds

Published 5:00 pm PST, Friday, February 1, 2019

Lindsey Vonn transcended her sport in a way only a handful of Olympic athletes could even imagine. She was about more than skiing. She was about more than medals. She was about more than winning.

She was often in the spotlight, appearing in the pages of mainstream and sports magazines, walking the red carpets, mingling with A-list celebrities and dating high-profile sports figures.

The record-setting racer who grew up in Minnesota, then relocated to Colorado, became a household name in mountain towns and big cities — to people who knew a lot about racing and those who only tuned in every four years.

But now, conceding her body is “broken beyond repair,” Vonn is nearing the finish line for the final time. The woman who won more World Cup races than any other female is calling it quits at age 34. On Friday, she said she’ll retire after next week’s world championships in Are, Sweden.

“She’s accomplished so many things and has overcome so much adversity in her life, with her injuries, and comebacks, and setbacks and comebacks,” U.S. Ski and Snowboard CEO Tiger Shaw said in a telephone interview. “Very few people can focus and train as hard as she does. We’re all in awe of what she’s accomplished in her career.”

Vonn’s original plan was to step away in December, after one final charge down the course in Lake Louise, Alberta — a course she won on so often it’s now named in her honor.

She was forced to move up her retirement because of persistent pain in both knees, which she fully realized after failing to finish a race in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, last month.

Now, she’s down to two races: The women’s super-G on Tuesday, and the downhill Feb. 10.

That’s it. That’s all her knees have left.

“My body is broken beyond repair and it isn’t letting me have the final season I dreamed of,” Vonn wrote on Instagram . “My body is screaming at me to STOP and it’s time for me to listen.

“It’s been an emotional 2 weeks making the hardest decision of my life,” she wrote, “but I have accepted that I cannot continue ski racing.”

Vonn’s impressive resume: three Olympic medals, including downhill gold at the 2010 Vancouver Games. Four overall World Cup titles. And 82 World Cup wins, most for women and leaving her four behind the all-time mark held by men’s champion Ingemar Stenmark of Sweden.

Her off-the-slopes portfolio includes: Appearing in the pages of everything from Vogue to the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, earning sponsorship deals with companies such as Red Bull and appearing on one of her favorite shows, “Law & Order.” The spotlight only increased when she dated golfer Tiger Woods. She’s now seeing Nashville Predators defenseman P.K. Subban.

She’s big on social media, with 1.6 million Instagram followers.

A recent post from Vonn was cryptic in nature and yet all-too-insightful as she quoted the French philosopher Voltaire: “Each player must accept the cards life deals him or her: but once they are in hand, he or she alone must decide how to play the cards in order to win the game.”

Translation: She simply has no more cards to play. Her aching knees and beat-up body finally applied the brakes to her hard-charging ways.

Vonn’s right knee is permanently damaged from previous crashes. She has torn ACLs, suffered fractures near her left knee, broken her ankle, sliced her right thumb and had several concussions — to name a few. She’s limited to about three runs per day, and her body just can’t handle the workload of other skiers.

Her first World Cup start was Nov. 18, 2000, in a slalom race in Park City, Utah, and she didn’t qualify for the second run. She was Lindsey Kildow then, before changing her name to Vonn after marrying her now ex-husband and ex-coach, Thomas.

Her first World Cup win came four years later, in a downhill event at Lake Louise.

Retiring in Sweden brings Vonn full circle. She won her first two major championship medals — two silvers — at the 2007 worlds in Are.

Pat Graham and Andrew Dampf are Associated Press writers.

This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/Her-knees-broken-beyond-repair-U-S-skier-13582275.php.

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