Lindsey Vonn has announced that she will retire from alpine skiing after the upcoming world championships, which start on Tuesday, after an illustrious 19-year career.
The 34-year-old has struggled with persistent injuries this season, and will come up four victories short in her bid to chase down Ingemar Stenmark’s all-time record of 86 World Cup wins.
Vonn pulled out of last weekend’s speed events in Garmisch Partenkirchen, having admitted that she may have competed in her final race after failing to finish a super-G in Cortina d’Ampezzo on January 20.
“The past two weeks have been some of the most emotionally challenging days of my life,” Vonn said in a statement on Facebook.
“I am struggling with the reality of what my body is telling me versus what my mind and hear believe I’m capable of.
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It’s been an emotional 2 weeks making the hardest decision of my life, but I have accepted that I cannot continue ski racing. I will compete at the World Championships in Downhill and SG next week in Åre, Sweden and they will be the final races of my career. I have always pushed the limits of ski racing and it has allowed me to have amazing success but also dramatic crashes. I have never wanted the storyline of my career to be about injuries and because of that I decided not to tell anyone that I underwent surgery this past spring. A large portion of cartilage that had delaminated from my bone was removed. My crash in Lake Louise last year was much more painful than I let on, but I continued to race because I wanted to win a medal in the Olympics for my late grandfather. Again, I rehabbed my way back this summer and I felt better than I had in a long time. Then I crashed in Copper this November and injured my left knee, tearing my LCL plus sustaining 3 fractures. Despite extensive therapy, training and a knee brace, I am not able make the turns necessary to compete the way I know I can. My body is broken beyond repair and it isn’t letting me have the final season I dreamed of. My body is screaming at me to STOP and it’s time for me to listen. Honestly, retiring isn’t what upsets me. Retiring without reaching my goal is what will stay with me forever. However, I can look back at 82 World Cup wins, 20 World Cup titles, 3 Olympic medals, 7 World Championship medals and say that I have accomplished something that no other woman in HISTORY has ever done, and that is something that I will be proud of FOREVER! I always say, “Never give up!” So to all the the kids out there, to my fans who have sent me messages of encouragement to keep going… I need to tell you that I’m not giving up! I’m just starting a new chapter. Don’t lose faith in your dreams, keep fighting for what you love, and if you always give everything you have you’ll be happy no matter what the outcome. Thank you for the amazing years, for always supporting me, and for making my job so fun. Can’t wait to see some of you in the finish in Åre where I will give it my all one last time. Love always, Lindsey
“After many sleepless nights, I have finally accepted that I cannot continue ski racing.”
Vonn’s 82 World Cup triumphs included 43 in the downhill, 28 super-Gs, four giant slaloms, two slalom races and five combined events.
She revived her hopes of chasing down Stenmark’s total by winning five races last season, but a knee injury suffered at Lake Louise proved too difficult to fully recover from.
“Honestly, retiring isn’t what upsets me,” she admitted. “Retiring without reaching my goal is what will stay with me forever.”
The 2010 downhill Olympic champion also said that she had undergone surgery last year, before injuring her knee again in November.
Vonn will race in the world championship downhill and super-G races in Are, Sweden, aiming to rekindle some of the form that helped her win both races at the 2009 worlds in Val d’Isere.
The super-G kicks off the competition on Tuesday, with the downhill next Sunday. By her own high standards, Vonn has struggled at other world championships in the past, failing to win any other gold medals, with three silvers and two third-place efforts.
But she will retire as an all-time great of the sport, having also won four overall World Cup crowns, including three straight from 2008-2010.
“Over the past few years I have had more injuries and surgeries than I care to admit,” she said.
“I have always pushed the limits of ski racing and it has allowed me to have amazing success but also dramatic crashes …
“I hope I can still ski with my kids some day. But even knowing what lies ahead for my body, it has still been worth it. I have always worked hard, fought back and dealt with whatever comes my way because I simply love skiing.”
She will join Norwegian speedster Aksel Lund Svindal in bowing out after the worlds.
Her mantle as American ski queen will be taken over by Mikaela Shiffrin, who powered to a 12th World Cup win of the season earlier on Friday in Maribor as the 23-year-old continued her unstoppable march to emulating Vonn with a third consecutive overall title.
Vonn started dating golfer Tiger Woods in 2013, before the pair broke up two years later.