Lindsey Vonn: From Injury to Stardom


Credit to Matthias Hangst

Emily Sherman, Editor

1984, Minnesota- American alpine skier Lindsey Vonn is born.  She will go on to win multiple Olympic medals, battle a myriad of injuries, and potentially be crowned as the greatest skier of all time.   

Growing up in Minnesota with her four siblings, Vonn began her ascent to sports stardom as a toddler, when her father — former competitive skier Alan Kildow — first put her on skis.  Vonn trained locally with coach Erich Sailer before moving to Colorado in the late 1990s. In 1999, the 14-year-old made history when she won the slalom at Trofeo Topolino in Italy, becoming the first American woman to attain the honor. Vonn excelled as a junior competitor over the next few years and was named to Team USA for the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. The following year, she won a silver medal at the Junior World Championship.  In 2005, Vonn signed with Red Bull and began working with a new coaching team.

Vonn had high hopes for the 2006 Olympic Games in Torino, Italy.  However, during a practice run, she had a terrible accident and ended up in the hospital. She demonstrated outstanding levels of commitment to the sport and still competed, coming in seventh in the Super G and eighth in the downhill events.  Vonn made an impressive comeback the following year, winning silver medals in the downhill and the Super G at the 2007 World Championships in Sweden. In 2008, she began her winning streak of three consecutive World Cup overall women’s championships.  In 2010, Vonn got the chance to fulfill her lifelong dream of Olympic success by winning a gold medal in the downhill and a bronze in the Super G at the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, Canada. Vonn also continued to dominate outside of the Olympics, winning three consecutive titles in the combined event, from 2010 to 2012, as well as her fourth overall championship, in 2012.

Vonn after winning the gold medal for the women’s downhill competition at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.


On February 5, 2013, Vonn endured a horrific crash at the World Championships in Austria.  Diagnosed with ACL and MCL tears and a fractured lateral tibial plateau, she underwent reconstructive knee surgery and embarked on a lengthy recovery.  She aggravated some of her injuries while training in November, before returning to compete the following month at Lake Louise, Alberta. Two weeks later, Vonn removed herself from a World Cup downhill competition in Val d’Isere, France, after her MCL was sprained.  The sprain, in addition to her torn ACL, forced her to announce that she would not compete in the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Vonn clawed her way back into elite form over the next couple of seasons, winning her seventh downhill title and her fifth Super G in 2015. Along the way, she claimed her 63rd World Cup win to surpass Austria’s Annemarie Moser-Pröll for most by a woman — leaving only Sweden’s Ingemar Stenmark in front with his 86 victories. Heading into the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, Vonn seemed to be in fine form with three straight downhill wins. She delivered a solid run in her debut event, the Super G, but made a late mistake that led to a sixth-place finish.  A few days later, Vonn outraced all but two of her younger competitors in the downhill, making her the third American alpine skier to win three Olympic medals and the oldest woman to medal in an alpine event. “I won the bronze medal but I feel like I’ve won the gold medal,” said Vonn, reflecting on her journey and perseverance through multiple dispiriting injuries.

Aside from injuries, Vonn also faces adversity from the young hopefuls in the sport.  One particular threat is Mikaela Shiffrin — the American skier who has accumulated three medals in two Winter Games.  Shiffrin’s expanding dominance poses competition for Vonn and the future of her skiing career.

Now in 2018, Vonn will not be starting in what has traditionally been known as her most successful World Cup event.  After crashing during a Super G training run at Copper Mountain and re-injuring her knee, Vonn missed the first World Cup downhill and Super G races of the season at Lake Louise, Alberta (November 30 to December 2).  Vonn commented about not being able to participate in one of her favorite races, stating, “My injuries, while painful and difficult, have been an important lesson and taught me a lot about myself and what I’m capable of dealing with.  Not everyone can take the kind of injuries I’ve taken and still come back. It takes a certain person who can fight through that.” With Vonn’s worth ethic and natural talent, there is no doubt that she will forever rank as one of the greatest skiers of all time.