Comeback kid Lindsey Vonn says she’s ready for more Olympic gold

  • As the Pyeongchang Olympics approach, racer Lindsey Vonn looks in good form, winning two more World Cup races over the weekend
  • Despite a grueling sequence of injuries, Vonn piled on victories and in 2016 became the all-time leader for Super G in either gender
Lindsey Vonn after winning the gold medal in the Women's Downhill in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
Getty Images | Wally Skalij
Lindsey Vonn after winning the gold medal in the Women's Downhill in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

Lindsey Vonn was pushing hard down an Austrian mountain in the opening Super-G race of the 2013 Alpine World Ski Championships.

Vonn's class was not in doubt. In 2010, she had won gold in the downhill and bronze in the super-G at the Vancouver Winter Olympics. The Minnesotan had then gone on to establish herself as one of the greatest ski racers of all time, winning four World Cup championships and more World Cup races than any other American.

But 42 seconds into this run, she was in second place.

Straining to narrow the gap, Vonn approached a jump just after completing a hard left turn. To the untrained eye, she left the snow with no problems and flew, tucked aggressively, through the air.

As she hit the snow, her right leg instantly buckled sideways from underneath her body as her right knee collapsed and twisted. She would eventually come to rest in a fence at the side of the slope.

Unable to move, the racer was airlifted to a nearby hospital to discover she had torn her anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament in her right knee.

An Olympic comeback

Vonn's attempted return to competition later that year had to be aborted as the knee failed to stand up to competition and she was unable to defend her title at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

Since then the American, despite a grueling sequence of injuries, has piled on the victories and in 2016 became the all-time leader for Super G in either gender. A year earlier, she had already become the most decorated female downhill racer ever.

And now as the Pyeongchang Olympics approach, the racer looks in good form winning two more World Cup races over the weekend.

In a recent interview with Associated Press, the Vonn said when it comes to the Olympics, there is a sense of unfinished business.

"Eight years has been a very long time," she said. "Obviously, I was very... disappointed and devastated and frustrated that I missed Sochi. I've been waiting for this for a long time. I'm ready.''

Vonn added that getting to the start line in race condition will be enough to give her a chance of gold.

"I don't really think about peaking, so much as staying healthy. As long as I'm healthy and confident, then I'll be in a great position when I get to Pyeongchang,'' Vonn said.

Marketing, money, controversy

Vonn has gathered a significant level of media attention and has long been the face of skiing in the United States.

The athlete played a major role in NBC's Today Show coverage of the 2014 Sochi Olympics, hosting her own segments.

Vonn also appeared on "The Today Show," "Access Hollywood" and The Late Show With David Letterman." She also starred in an episode of Law & Order after publicly saying it was a favorite show.

Skier Lindsey Vonn raises her crutches as she presents a dress by Cynthia Rowley during The Heart Truth Red Dress Collection show sponsored by the American Heart Association Go Red For Women campaign February 6, 2014 in New York.
Stan Honda | AFP | Getty Images
Skier Lindsey Vonn raises her crutches as she presents a dress by Cynthia Rowley during The Heart Truth Red Dress Collection show sponsored by the American Heart Association Go Red For Women campaign February 6, 2014 in New York.

To mark her 2018 comeback, Vonn has appeared in a minute-long Super Bowl commercial that documents her successes and injuries.

The racer has won endorsements from Head, Oakley, Red Bull, Rolex and Under Armour, among others.

In 2013, Forbes published an article referencing her then-relationship with golfer Tiger Woods. In it, the magazine estimated the skier's personal earnings at the time to be around $3 million.

Her build-up to the 2018 games has included some political controversy. In a CNN interview, Vonn said she would "absolutely not" visit the White House if the Olympic Team is invited, adding: "I want to represent our country well. I don't think that there are a lot of people currently in our government that do that."

The best in history

Vonn is one of only six women to have won World Cup races in all five disciplines of Alpine skiing — downhill, super-G, giant slalom, slalom and super combined.

But it is not just records in women's racing that interest Vonn.

The greatest ski racer of all time is thought by many to be Ingemar Stenmark, the Swede who won 86 World Cup races. Vonn is at 81, and the 33-year-old has decided to return to the World Cup circuit next season with that target in mind.

Lindsey Vonn of USA competes during the Alipine Ski World Cup Women's Super G on December 16, 2017 in France
Alain Grosclaude/Agence Zoom | Getty Images
Lindsey Vonn of USA competes during the Alipine Ski World Cup Women's Super G on December 16, 2017 in France

"I already put enough pressure on myself to reach that goal, anyway. I want to make sure I give myself a little more time, so I'm not stressed about it," she told AP.

Another target that Vonn has openly talked about is competing directly against men.

On her behalf, the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association have asked the International Ski Federation's Alpine executive board if Vonn can race against men sometime next season.

The proposal is expected to be considered in May and Vonn has said it could shake-up sport in the same way Billie Jean King did, when she beat male tennis player Bobby Riggs in 1973.

"I want to see what I'm capable of. It would be really great exposure for the sport,'' Vonn said.

The Olympic Women's Super-G is on February 16 and the Women's Downhill is on Feb 20.

Disclosure: CNBC parent NBCUniversal owns NBC Sports and NBC Olympics. NBC Olympics is the U.S. broadcast rights holder to all Summer and Winter Games through the year 2032.