PYEONGCHANG – An emotional Lindsey Vonn signed off from her Olympic downhill career with a bronze on Wednesday, saying her “hurting body” would not allow her to compete at the Beijing Games in four years’ time.
Coming in third behind Italian winner Sofia Goggia and silver medallist Ragnhild Mowinckel of Norway, Vonn confirmed that it was her last ever Olympic downhill.
After debuting aged 17 at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, where her best finish was sixth in the combined, Vonn suffered an injury which dented her chances in Turin four years later before winning downhill gold and super-G bronze in Vancouver in 2010.
Injury ruled Vonn out of Sochi in 2014 and her appearance in Pyeongchang is testament to her professionalism and never-say-die attitude after a series of other devastating injuries.
“If you think what's happened over the last eight years and what I've been through to get here, I gave it all and to come away with a medal is a dream come true,” said Vonn. “You've got to put things into perspective. Of course, I would have loved a gold medal but, honestly, this is amazing and I'm so proud.”
Vonn, who is due to compete in Thursday's alpine combined event, added: “It was tough to contemplate this being my last Olympic downhill. I struggled to try to keep the emotions together, but I left it all on the mountain like I said I would.
“It's sad. It's my last downhill. I wish I could keep going, I'm having so much fun and I love what I do, but my body just can't take another four years.”
Be it a jarred back, fractured humerus or season-ending injuries that include a fractured left ankle (2016), wrecked right knee (2014) and left knee (2013), Vonn has suffered a catalogue of mishaps that has left her relying on more than a couple of reconstructed body parts.
“Yeah, I'm going to miss the Olympics, that was one of the reasons why it was so emotional for me today.” she said. “I love racing in the Olympics, I love racing, being in the start gate with so much pressure you feel suffocated, but somehow you will yourself to give everything you have and you throw yourself down mountain in hopes of a medal.
“I wish I could keep skiing, I wish my body doesn't hurt as bad as it does.”
As it stands, Vonn became the oldest Olympic female medallist in alpine skiing with her downhill bronze, a record previously held by Austrian Michaela Dorfmeister (super-G 2006).
The American had joked that she would require “medical miracles” to extend her trophy-laden career, although she has confirmed that she will race next season in a bid to better Ingemar Stenmark's World Cup win record of 86.
The four-time World Cup overall champion's tally is currently 81.
Goggia and Vonn are close friends, sharing a mutual respect and openly describing themselves as “100 percent crazy” in their pursuit of downhill speed.
“I feel really honoured to be racing with the greatest female skier of all time,” said Goggia, who said she moved like a “samurai” during her run and who was labelled a “crazyhorse” by her coach.
“I won today and I beat her, but it's always an honour to race with Lindsey Vonn. I was watching her from my sofa during my injuries some years ago. I remember when she won in Vancouver and I said 'I wish I can be there racing at the top'. I came here in Korea with one goal - to beat Lindsey.”