Vail’s Vonntourage preparing for the season
November 20, 2009
VAIL, Colo. – Vail’s Lindsey Vonn and her husband, Thomas, were sitting on the couch watching the HBO series “Entourage” when the idea popped into Thomas’ head – the “Vonntourage.”
As the top female skier on the World Cup circuit the past two seasons, Vonn travels full time with two physical trainers provided by Red Bull, her ski technician, and her husband – a former U.S. Ski Team member and Olympian.
“It was kind of our little fan club slogan, and it’s kind of just taken on a new form and a new life, and everyone is using that all the time,” Lindsey Vonn said. “It encompasses everyone. If you’re a Vonn fan, then you’re part of the Vonntourage.”
Type in Vonntourage.com and you’ll be redirected to Vonn’s personal website. There’s a Vonntourage Facebook page, too, and T-shirts and more could be on the way in time for the Vancouver Olympics in February.
“There’s a lot of people that are helping me and making this whole circus run smoothly,” Vonn said.
The group’s official language is German, the first language of Vonn’s two trainers, Oliver Saringer and Martin Hager, plus her ski man, Heinz Heammerle.
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“I talk with her in German and English,” Hager said. “We are mixing, because I want to improve my English, and she wants to improve her German, so it’s a great deal.”
Vonn, who has been studying the language for years, is fluent enough to do live TV interviews in German. That can leave Thomas Vonn as the odd man out at times.
“Unfortunately, it’s German most of the time,” he said with a shrug. “I sort of figure it out, though, because it’s either figure it out or stare at the wall.”
As husband and unofficial coach, Thomas’ Vonntourage duties stretch from technical advice to emotional support, such as when Lindsey asked him to join her at the top of the mountain before the world championship downhill in Val d’Isere, France, last season.
“That’s a Vonntourage duty sometimes,” he explained. “She told me in the morning that she was nervous, and she needed to change the plan a little bit. Normally, I wouldn’t be up in the start, I would be down on the course reporting. But she asked me to join her in the start to calm her down because she was freaking out.
“I [said], ‘All right, whatever you need,’ and I was just up there keeping it cool. I was trying to make the world championships. That’s what I think we succeeded in doing, and she was able to calm her nerves a bit and ski well. It worked out OK.”
The other key Vonntourage members have more defined roles.
Saringer is the physiotherapist, and Hager is the fitness coach. He supervises an offseason program featuring extensive biking and weight training, plus other activities.
“We work with her maybe six or eight hours a day the whole summer,” Saringer said. “We are a small family with Lindsey.”
The Vonntourage family first became official when Lindsey married Thomas Vonn in September 2008. Until the wedding, Vonn was known by her maiden name, Kildow, and Thomas was the only Vonn around.
He’s still the only one who answers to Vonn.
“In the Vonntourage, when somebody yells Vonn it’s for me,” he said. “People say Lindsey for her. She hasn’t been Vonned yet.”
So what will it take?
“She may take the name over if she starts winning Olympic gold medals,” Thomas said. “Don’t hold me to that.”
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