Vonn Closes Out Career With Downhill Bronze
Vail's Lindsey Vonn wrapped up her illustrious 18-year career as the most successful female ski racer in history Sunday with a bronze medal in the downhill at the FIS Alpine World Ski Championship in Are, Sweden.
Vonn left everything on the hill Sunday as she competed in her final event in typical Vonn - all or nothing - fashion that over her 18-year career brought her 82 World Cup victories; eight World Championship medals, including two gold in downhill and super-G at the 2009 World Champs in Val d’Isere, France; and three Olympic medals, including the downhill gold at the 2010 Games in Whistler, Canada.
“I risked it all today as always. I was so nervous...I wanted more than anything to finish strong. I didn't want to end up like I did on Tuesday (in the Super G) in the fence,” said Vonn, who has won a medal in six different World Championship events - another woman's record. “I was weighing in my mind the risk of putting it all out there, crashing and being injured again, as opposed to finishing where I wanted to. It was an internal battle, but in the end, I went with my emotions and stayed calm, and I was able to execute my plan.”
With sunshine and fast, grippy snow, Vonn - starting bib 3 - charged from the lower reserved downhill start house after race organizers shortened the course due to wind at the summit. Despite a slow start, once she found her groove, she reached for the podium.
“For some reason, I’m always slow on top here, but on the bottom, I know how to carry my speed, and once I got into the rhythm of things, I was able to execute and hang on for one last podium,” she said.
After being sidelined with a knee injury last season, Slovenia’s Ilca Stuhec successfully defending her downhill World Championship title Sunday. Switzerland’s Corinne Suter took home the silver. Alice Merryweather (Hingham, Mass.), the 2017 Junior World Downhill Champion, was 22nd.
Vonn stood on the podium one final time to accept the bronze medal in a joyous awards ceremony as Swedish legend Ingemar Stenmark, who holds the all-time World Cup win record of 86 victories, presented the awards to Vonn, Stuhec, and Suter.
In victory, defeat, battling back from crashes and injuries, Vonn will be remembered as a vicious competitor, who brought the sport of alpine ski racing the mainstream of American sports.
“I always risk everything all the time,” she said. “That’s the reason I was able to win so much. Also, the reason why I crashed so much and had so many injuries.”
With another World Championships medal, Vonn is comfortable with her decision to retire and hold her head high as she moves on to the next chapter of life.
“I’m in a position where my body isn’t allowing me to ski the way that I know that I can...and that’s why I’m retiring,” she said. “My body isn’t letting me do what I need to do to win races. That’s the best I could have done today. There is not another gear. I’m very, very happy and thankful for bronze today.”