Ski racer Lindsey Vonn is still going at top speed, even in retirement
The Associated Press
DENVER — Lindsey Vonn’s certainly dived right into retirement — off a cliff and splashing into a lake feet first.
That’s one of the many post-racing adventures for the all-time winningest female skier in World Cup history. Never one to sit back, she’s still going at top speed since competing in her final ski race last February.
The bustling life of Vonn includes that recent cliff-jumping excursion with boyfriend and NHL defenseman P.K. Subban, wrapping up her memoir in a book set to be published early next year, starting a line of beauty products, walking the red carpet, working with Dwayne Johnson on a sports apparel project and serving as an executive producer of a film with Robert Redford.
That’s right, Robert Redford (she’s not at liberty to discuss the full details just yet).
“I want to take over the world, one business at a time,” the 34-year-old Vonn cracked in a phone interview.
With her schedule so packed, there’s really been no time to miss racing. Maybe once the snow falls.
She still feels the cumulative effects of all the tumbles and wipeouts over a career that included three Olympic medals, including downhill gold, and four overall World Cup titles. Her knees constantly throb and the right arm she broke nearly three years ago in a training crash still causes her trouble.
Four months ago, she had a ligament repaired in her left knee. Her right knee is bone-on-bone.
“You pay a price for throwing yourself down the mountain and I’m going to be paying that price for the rest of my life,” said Vonn, who just announced a partnership with the DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation to award $500,000 in scholarships through her own foundation. “But that’s part of being an athlete — you sacrifice yourself and your body.”
In December, Vonn plans to make the trek to Lake Louise, Alberta, for the World Cup races and visit a course where she won so often it’s now named in her honor.
She’s bringing her mom — and not her downhill skis. Her original plan last season was to step away after one final charge down the course in Lake Louise, but pain forced her to move up retirement.
“I’m not going to race. I can’t. I’m too beat up,” Vonn said. “I need the break.”
Any chance of a comeback, say, down the road?
“I don’t think so,” said Vonn, who has no designs on a coaching career. “The biggest problem is my right knee. Maybe something will come up that could help me. But at this point I don’t really foresee anything happening that’s going to dramatically change my living situation, let alone my competition possibilities.”
As for her women’s record of 82 World Cup wins, Vonn doesn’t anticipate the mark standing for long given the pace of fellow American Mikaela Shiffrin, who at 24 already has 60 wins.
“I’m sure Mikaela will beat it. If not her, someone else,” Vonn said. “I hope someone beats it.”
Vonn won’t be tuning in to catch many World Cup races. It’s too emotional. She was hoping to challenge the record of 86 World Cup wins held by Swedish great Ingemar Stenmark. Her banged-up body didn’t allow it.
Still, she closed her career in memorable fashion by earning a bronze downhill medal at the world championships in Are, Sweden, on Feb. 10.
Now, it’s off to other pursuits. Her memoir — “Rise: My Story” — is scheduled to hit the bookshelves in mid-February. She’s also serving as a global ambassador for Johnson’s “Project Rock “ collection, the actor’s signature line of Under Armour gear.
Then there’s the movie endeavor with Redford. They’re still developing the script and should soon start casting.
“Probably one of the coolest things I have ever been a part of,” Vonn said.
These days, she’s game for about any sort of undertaking, even riskier ones like cliff jumping. She and Subban — who was dealt from Nashville to the New Jersey Devils in June — joined up with some friends to take the plunge at a lake north of Toronto. Vonn jumped into the water after a countdown, while Subban hesitated before eventually leaping.
FYI: Her sponsor, Red Bull, does host a cliff-diving series.
“I know!” Vonn proudly exclaimed. “But I can only go so high because my ear drums pop all the time. So that’s kind of like close to the max or I rupture. I know my limits.”
Her passion these days revolve around her foundation, which provides girls scholarships and programming for education, sports, and enrichment programs.
Vonn also partnered with DICK’S to establish the Sports Matter Scholarship for underprivileged youth athletes across the country. Even more, she’s a member of DICK’S Sports Matter Advisory Board, which includes Oakland head coach Jon Gruden, Arizona receiver Larry Fitzgerald, and beach volleyball gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings, to name a few.
Vonn’s days are definitely full in retirement — and way busier than she ever imagined.
“I really need a whole weekend off at some point,” Vonn joked. “But it’s been good. There are plenty of goals to achieve post-skiing for sure.”
Mikaela Shiffrin did a lot of soul searching after she didn’t win a medal and didn’t finish three of her five individual races at last year’s Beijing Olympics after entering the games amid enormous expectations.