Vonn retiring with legendary status to heal the wounds
The American great will leave a lasting legacy when she ends her astonishing career with one final downhill race in Are on Sunday.
Lindsey Vonn will retire with her body "broken beyond repair" but safe in the knowledge she could have given no more in her pursuit of history.
The most successful female ski racer of all time will have one last tilt at yet more glory in the downhill at the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Are on Sunday.
Vonn had vowed last year that she would not quit until she had surpassed the great Ingemar Stenmark's tally of 86 FIS Alpine Skiing World Cup victories, regardless of how much pain she is in.
The legendary American decided enough was enough last week, the damage done to her left knee in a training run ahead of what was already due to be her final season proving to be the final straw.
At the age of 34, Vonn must have long since lost count of how many times she has gone under the surgeon's knife, yet an unwavering burning desire to succeed on the slopes ensured she saw every setback as another challenge to overcome.
The Minnesota-born speed queen was finally forced to admit defeat in her quest to break Stenmark's record, having racked up 82 World Cup wins in an astonishing career spanning 18 years in such an unforgiving sport.
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
"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," she posted on Instagram.
"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!"
The fiercely-determined superstar has recovered from a broken arm, knee, ankle, torn knee ligaments, concussion and many more setbacks as she continued to push herself to the limits.
Vonn suffered a high-speed crash in her final Super-G race in Sweden on Tuesday, but picked herself up to ski down to the finish, where she was given a rapturous ovation
One of the all-time greats declared "I'm too old for this" after hurtling into the safety nets, but that was never going to stop her from tackling the downhill this weekend.
She may be bruised and battered, but the inspirational Vonn will leave a lasting legacy and is sure to hit the heights in her post-skiing career rather than go downhill.