With Olympic gold and bronze medals, a couple of ESPY awards, and more World Cup victories than any other U.S. skiier, Vail's Lindsey Vonn is arguably America's best current skier. Here, 5280 caught up with the 26-year-old golden girl to talk about her best friend, being normal, and hometown skiing.
I’m really thankful for everything I have—and I love my sport—but I definitely question what it would be like to be “normal.” I look at my sister and kind of live through her a little bit. She’s a senior at the University of San Diego and is just having a great time.
I would do everything in my life the same. I had an awesome childhood. But I wouldn’t get that perm when I was 12.
I put everything I have into ski racing, but I’m kind of a mess, honestly, outside of racing. Everything within the sport is very organized; everything outside of it is not. My husband [former Olympic skier Thomas Vonn] is very supportive. He understands everything I’m going through.
Some people think that when the Olympics are over, we don’t ski again for four years! I’m looking forward to defending my world championship and World Cup titles. Every year, I feel like it gets harder and everyone wants to beat me more, especially my best friend, [German skier] Maria Riesch.
I enjoy having one of my best friends as one of my biggest competitors. We have a really amazing and open relationship. We’ve never really had any secrets with each other, and that’s why we’re able to stay friends. We can relate to each other well. It’s a little hard, and it’s kind of weird. I know my friend is out there trying to beat me. But it’s not really me; she’s trying to beat the sport.
I don’t have an issue with crashing. It’s a part of racing. Unfortunately, when you pick yourself up, all your parts aren’t necessarily working right. [Up until the pre-Vancouver shin injury], I never had an injury that was so in the spotlight. I had to manage everyone’s expectations. I had to keep things in perspective. I never really gave up hope that I would still ski in the Olympics.
What gets me out of bed besides skiing? Umm. I just kind of get up. I just enjoy life. I think about what my competitors are doing, and that motivates me to work hard. It takes a lot of hard work to be number one at any sport.
All the extra stuff has been so much fun. In August, I went to New York for Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day. I got to play tennis with little kids and Roger Federer! But I can’t forget that the reason I’m doing it is for my skiing.
I’d like to think I could be an OK tennis player, but that might be just in my head. If I had to do a legitimate job, I’d probably be a veterinarian.
When I was a kid, Picabo Street was a big inspiration and role model to me because of how determined and mentally strong she was. More recently, Roger Federer; he’s a great character and a humble guy.
I’m pretty biased, but there’s nowhere in the world that comes close to the size and magnitude of Vail. I feel like you could just ski forever and not ski the same trail twice.
I’m definitely sticking around for World Alpine Ski Championships in Vail in 2015. It’s going to be so amazing. Ideally, it would be great to end my career in Vail.
I’m really looking forward to starting a family—though that won’t happen for a few years yet. We want to have three or four kids. I want to give them as many opportunities as I can. I want to give them skis, tennis rackets, golf clubs, soccer balls. I’m definitely excited to go skiing with my own little ones.
I’m probably going to take a year off before starting a family. I need to clear my head. And unpack.