Lindsey Vonn

First American woman to win an Olympic gold medal in downhill skiing

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‘You can overcome anything.’

My dad was a ski racer growing up. He may or may not have bribed me with hot chocolate and sprinkled donuts — but whatever he did, it worked. I started racing when I was seven, and I knew I wanted to be a ski racer when I was nine.

When I first started racing, I wasn’t good. I was really slow, and my coach actually made fun of me and called me a turtle. But then once I figured out that I didn’t like losing, I had a lot of fun with it and I started to be successful.

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In a lot of sports, the variables are kind of out of your control. With skiing, you have control over the speed that you go. No one is telling me to go slower. I can put my foot on the gas the whole way down if I want to. That’s the feeling that I love most about skiing — the freedom to push yourself to the max.

At the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, I felt like I had finally figured out how to ski my best on the biggest stage in the world. But then missing the 2014 Olympics was really hard. That should have been the peak of my career. I had fought so hard in 2013 to come back from a broken leg and torn ACL and MCL — and then to re-injure myself only a few months before the Olympics was devastating.

And that point, it was like, What am I doing? Am I going to just keep picking myself back up and then falling? But I had a really good support system around me that kept reminding me why I do it — I love ski racing. At the end of the day, ski racing is a crazy sport. We’re all going to crash at some point.

No matter what obstacle or setback you face, if you continue to work hard and don’t give up, you can overcome anything. My mom had a stroke when she gave birth to me. I feel like all of my injuries are nothing compared to what she’s had to go through. It could be a lot worse, and my mother never complains. So, I just shut my mouth and I keep working.

Vonn is also the first female skier to win more than 70 World Cup alpine races.

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