Senior Editor

While most casual fans would say Lindsey Vonn’s best race ever was her Olympic gold medal downhill run in 2010, that would be wrong. In my mind, it would be hard to choose which one of her 80 wins on the World Cup tour was her best, where she’s fought through so many injuries over so many years to rule podiums in places like Cortina or Austria or Germany.


The World Cup has been a much greater barometer of the Minnesota-come-Colorado-native’s skills. And while the end is near (she’s the oldest Olympian ever to medal in alpine skiing), I have a hard time believing the 33-year-old will retire before she becomes the all-time winningest World Cup skier in history (she’s six victories shy of Ingemar Stenmark).

But when she does call it quits, I’ll remember her—and respect her even more–for her backbone and the way she carried herself: confident, almost cocky, willing to say whatever, be a smartass, share a point of view, and a have damn good time doing it. I don’t know her well enough—or at all—to be able to say she doesn’t have her moments of insecurity, but we’re all humans, here. She has certainly been entertaining to listen to–let alone watch charge down mountains with little to no regard for her body.

Like how she said before the Olympics that she wouldn’t be representing President Trump (not sure what woman in her right mind would), and laughed off the internet crazies that fanatically support the man and attacked her on Twitter, some hoping she would, “break her neck.”

Or how she told Dan Patrick that snowboarders and skiers could use a “little separation.”

“There are places that only allow skiers,” she said. “The problem is, snowboarders are difficult because you guys camp out, adjust your bindings, your peripheral vision is terrible.”

Such a sweet little poke in the eye, there. Not too much, just the right amount of smart assery to build buzz without burning bridges. And the fanatical snowboarders still stuck in the 1990s lost their minds.

Writing about Vonn is fun. Mostly thanks to her fantastical forays into the spoken word. In the fall of ‘16, I received an icy note from one of her publicists after I wrote about her spot on the DP Show and referenced my most favorite cut of Vonn ever: when she made NFL defensive lineman JJ Watt, blush like a schoolboy during a red carpet interview at the ESPY’s:

ESPN’s Hannah Storm: How did you fight through so many injuries to become Defensive Player of the Year?

Watt: Well thank you Hannah, I have a great training staff and teammates and….

Vonn: And lots of massages. In the groin area.

Watt: Wow, it got hot out here all of a sudden.

Watt stumbled. Storm fumbled. Vonn giggled at them both. And why wouldn’t she make fun? Softball questions put us to sleep. Vonn knows how to keep an audience awake. I thought it was hilarious, telling of the greatest American skier alive. But she’s more than a skier. This one has a great personality.

We’ve seen her vulnerable side, too, like when she recently spread her grandfather’s ashes in South Korea or her ill-fated relationship with Tiger Woods and the ups and downs that played out in public.

The beauty, the wins, both have meant she’s operated in a different stratosphere than many of her competitors. We shouldn’t kid ourselves, either: skiing is an individual sport. The American team competes under the same flag but they’re out there completely and utterly alone. No teammate can save you when you’re holding an icy turn on tiny planks at 60 miles per hour. And “teammates,” in skiing are essentially competing against one another so it’s understandable if relationships aren’t always cuddly. Still, it seems that Lindsey Vonn has her teammates respect. And that she’s had influence.

Mikaela Shiffrin, America’s future who won gold and silver at these games, criticized the president for his actions, too, saying that young women will never look to him for guidance. You can’t help but think that Vonn’s willingness to say how she felt, stand up for herself and be open has had some influence on Shiffrin.

Vonn will be remembered most for her skiing, no doubt. But I’ll miss the way she always let er’ rip in front of the mic.

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