Becoming the most successful female alpine skier of all time does not come easily. No one wins 77 World Cups over the course of nearly two decades without some pain and suffering sprinkled in. However, it does seem that Lindsey Vonn has had an unusually high injury rate.
The American has had ACL injures, a concussion, a fractured ankle, a sliced tendon in her thumb (thanks to a champagne bottle), and a fractured humerus bone in her right arm–just to name a few. Most recently, fans saw Vonn collapse in the finish area at St. Moritz after her super-G run due to a back ailment.
“I jammed my facet joint on the sixth gate of the World Cup super-G in St. Moritz,” she explained. “Wasn’t quite sure if I should continue skiing or what I should do, but I fought my way to the finish because I needed some super-G points. But I was in a tremendous amount of pain and, you know, had to go get some therapy and got some imaging and saw some doctors, and thankfully it’s better now, but it definitely took a couple days and now I feel pretty good. A little stiff still, but the pain is gone, so made some big progress.”
Racers do not plan to get injured when they push out of the start gate, and, for Vonn, this sudden pain was surprising.
“I think the biggest thing was just not knowing what to do in the course,” Vonn shared. “Normally, I either start off with pain or I crash and I get pain from it, and I also don’t usually have any back problems at all, so it was definitely surprising–just difficult to be able to focus the rest of the way down the course and try to actually move when I was in so much pain.”
Despite the surprise of her latest injury, she’s not too concerned about pain heading into this weekend’s speed series in Val d’Isere.
“…Now I feel good, so I’m not really worried about it, not really thinking about it,” she continued. “Just trying to stay as loose as I can the next couple days especially in the start.”
Watching Vonn walk into the interview, it was easy to see that she’d made big strides since fans saw her crouched over and struggling to exit the finish corral in Switzerland. At the U.S. speed team’s annual white elephant gift exchange Thursday evening, she appeared to have no problem moving around as she hunted for a new gift when her original pick had been stolen.
In the midst of her improved back and the frivolity of the Christmas spirit in France, it is easier to ignore the virtual world that has recently exploded with conversations about Vonn and her recent CNN interview. The American expressed that she would not accept an invitation to the White House, if she represents the U.S. at the Olympic Winter Games as planned this February.
Since then, Vonn has been victim to violent backlash by ski fans and internet trolls alike, who disagree with her political views. Ski Racing Media’s own Facebook post about the story ignited a storm of comments on both sides of the debate.
One commenter, Mary Angela Brenden, responded positively, typing, “Good on her. It takes integrity to make a statement like that. The reason she said it was to make a point. Set precedence. Not the semantics of if or who or what an athletes represents. That goes without saying, troglodytes. She stands for something.”
On the opposite end of the spectrum, David Borgen, wrote, “Very ill advised choice. I was just going to send in another donation to the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team. Not now. Obviously Lindsey is only thinking of herself and not her teammates – or her country.”
The response was even more heated on Vonn’s own social media accounts. Many people called for a boycott of her sponsors using hashtags like #BoycottUnderArmour, and some even said that her recent back injury was karma for her statements against the president.
On Vonn’s Instagram post from Dec. 9, @codee29, wrote, “Karma has a way of sorting itself out. I heard you were recently injured.. coincidence? Sadly, this doesn’t sound like a career ending injury. It’s a shame you will be representing the U.S. in the Olympics. You want to represent the people of the U.S., but not our president? What about the millions of people that voted for him? Will you not be representing them as well? Sad.”
On Dec. 13, the American responded to the lashback with a statement on Instagram, defending her statements and reinforcing her goal to represent the U.S. at the Olympic Winter Games.
As I head to France for the next races, I would like to share with you my reflections from the past few days. I’ve received a tremendous amount of feedback, both positive and negative, about my recent CNN interview. The point that I was trying to articulate is that all Olympic athletes represent their nation as a whole, and are not representatives of their government or any specific political figure or party. None of us work tirelessly for years on end to compete in the Olympics on behalf of Democrats or Republicans. The Olympics are a non-political event, a chance for everyone to put aside their differences and be on the same “team.”. That does not mean that Olympic athletes don’t have political opinions. As an American, I am extremely proud that our great nation was founded on principals and ideals where citizens can express our opinions openly. It is a privilege that some others around the world don’t have. I am proud to be an American, and I want our country to continue to be a symbol of hope, compassion, inclusion and world unity. My travels around the world have recently made clear that this is no longer how people view the United States. You cannot pick up a newspaper or turn on the TV in Europe without noticing how people are questioning our direction. It seems to me that we must lead with understanding and strive for unity in our relationships throughout the world. As for myself, my recent comments opened up my eyes as to how divided we are right now. It is hurtful to read comments where people are hoping I break my neck or that God is punishing me for being “anti-Trump.” We need to find a way to put aside our differences and find common ground in communicating. Is it wrong to hope for a better world? All of this is much bigger than skiing and the Olympics. I am going to take the next two months to focus on what I can do and right now that is competing for my country. In doing that, I will be hoping that we Americans can still be that “shining city on a hill.”
“The point that I was trying to articulate is that all Olympic athletes represent their nation as a whole, and are not representatives of their government or any specific political figure or party,” she wrote. “None of us work tirelessly for years on end to compete in the Olympics on behalf of Democrats or Republicans.”
She continued, “As for myself, my recent comments opened up my eyes as to how divided we are right now. It is hurtful to read comments where people are hoping I break my neck or that God is punishing me for being ‘anti-Trump.'”
Vonn will have to tune out the world (probably with the help of her Beats headphones) in order to get into the right headspace for the races ahead. Due to the snowy weather in Val d’Isere, both downhill training runs have been canceled. Instead of running a downhill, the venue plans to host two super-G runs–one Saturday and one Sunday. The situation is fluid as of Friday morning, and there is potential for racing on Monday if bad weather prohibits even more competition, though nothing is confirmed.