Lindsey Vonn (née Kildow), who retired from competitive skiing, aged 34, after winning a bronze medal in the ladies’ downhill at the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Åre, Sweden in February, 2019, is the most decorated American skier in history. Before her retirement, she had written on Facebook, ‘My body is broken beyond repair and it isn’t letting me have the final season I dreamed of.’ Certainly, her story is one of perseverance, as she came back from multiple injuries, including broken bones and torn ligaments, time and time again in an extraordinary career.
Born in St. Paul, Minnesota on October 18, 1984, she was just turned 16 when she made her World Cup debut, in slalom, at the Park City Mountain Resort in Park City, Utah on November 18, 2000. Two years later, still only 17, Vonn made the US team for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, finishing sixth in the women’s combined event. She raced at three more Winter Olympic Games, in Turin in 2006, Vancouver in 2010 and Pyeongchang in 2018, only missing out in Sochi in 2014 after reinjuring her reconstructed right knee the previous winter. She won her only Olympic gold medal in the downhill in Vancouver, but also a bronze medal in the super giant slalom that year and another in the downhill in Pyeongchang.
Vonn also has eight FIS Alpine World Ski Championships gold medals to her name, including gold medals in downhill and super-G at Val-d’Isère in 2009. However, her main claim to fame is her World Cup record; she remains one of only two women to win four World Cup overall titles (2008, 2009, 2010 and 2012) and, with 82 World Cup victories to her name, is second only to the legendary Swede Ingemark Stenmark in the all-time list.