PYEONGCHANG, South Korea – Contemplative and reflective, Lindsey Vonn on Friday wrapped up her competitive Olympic life by saying, “I gave it absolutely everything I had.”
Describing her two races at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, she said, “I didn’t ski nervous. I skied with passion and with my heart.” In a reference to the bronze medal she won in the downhill, she said, “A bronze honestly does feel like gold to me.” And, she said, “It has been an amazing Olympics and a great way to close out my career – in the Olympics.”
Vonn, 33, is assuredly going to keep ski racing. She is five wins behind the all-time mark for World Cup victories, 86, held by Sweden’s Ingemar Stenmark. She said she plans to race next in mid-March at Are, Sweden. “I’m not going to stop ski racing until I break it,” she said of Stenmark’s record.
The age thing got a lot of play at Friday’s meeting with the press. “You’re not getting any younger,” one reporter started – “Come right out and say it, why don’t you?” Vonn interrupted with a laugh. Another pointed out that Vonn was a “veteran” of the U.S. team. Again, Vonn, laughing, interrupted – “Veteran, see?!”
Italy’s Sofia Goggia, the downhill champion, wants Vonn to keep going – to the Beijing 2022 Games. Vonn has said many times that her body almost surely can’t take it that long. On Friday, she said sighing, “Four years is a really long time,” adding, “We’ll see.”
Separately Friday, Mikaela Shiffrin, who won a gold in giant slalom and a silver in the super-combined, said, “Knowing Lindsey, I don’t believe her.” She also said, “I don’t see Lindsey as being done yet, or passing the baton or me as taking the baton.”
Vonn’s news conference ranged over a wide range of topics.
She has, for instance, talked repeatedly about wanting to race against men. Skiing’s world governing body, which goes by the acronym FIS, is due this spring to consider the notion again.
On Friday, Vonn said, “It’s complicated on many fronts. It’s still something I would like to achieve. I don’t know if physically I am as strong or as competitive as I once was. However, I would still like the opportunity to try.”
These are Vonn’s fourth Olympics. At her first, in Salt Lake City in 2002, she was 17, and finished sixth in the combined, a hint of what was to come.
She was asked Friday about the expectation – so magnified in the United States – that it has to be gold or bust.
“I mean,” she said, “I think the expectation of winning gold medals is pretty out of whack, and I think we need to be proud of all our athletes for how much they have sacrificed and put in to be here.
“And, you know, medals aren’t – they’re not necessarily what the Olympics are all about.
“The Olympics are a unifying event, one that has a profound impact on the entire world, and so to quantify it how many medals you have I think is not appropriate, and doesn’t respect the athletes and what they’ve put into to be at these Games.”