By Bob Condron, USOC (Ret.)
Lindsey Vonn, just asked her body to give.
Give through the pain.
Give through spectacular crashes into those orange fences that kept her from going into the woods at 90 miles an hour.
Give through that icy chaos where the slope and gravity became her enemy and she had to depend on those edges to hold, keeping the skis flat without losing the momentum that couldn’t be made up. It was a game of hundredths of a second.
She had a finish line to get to… and get there faster than anybody, with her long blond hair flying about in that one-run slash down an unforgiving mountain.
Her body had a finish line, too. And Lindsey and her body hit that finish line just about the same time.
But, when it was feeling fine there was nothing more beautiful than watching Lindsey Vonn float down those carved icy mountains.
Lindsey Kildow grew up in the small hills of Minnesota. At Buck Hill Ski area in Burnsville, she began to show a talent that started with early lessons from her grandfather Don Kildow and legendary coach Erich Sailor.
The family moved to Vail in the late 1990s and she continued her training at Ski Club Vail.
Since that move she became the top female skier of all time. From her debut as a 16-year old in 2000, to 2019, Lindsey won four World Cup overall championships. She won the gold medal in downhill at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, the first for an American woman. She won eight World Cup season titles in Downhill, five in Super G, and three in Combined.
She won 20 World Cup Crystal Globe titles, a record for men and women, besting Ingemar Stenmark of Sweden with 19.
She’s second all-time in World Cup wins. She finished with 82 and when she was struggling for five more to beat Stenmark’s 86, she just ran out of physical ability to compete at that extreme high level.
Perhaps the two races that captured her spirit and passion came in the closing chapters of her ski life. In the 2018 Olympics she earned the bronze medal in the downhill despite suffering immense pain in every joint, bone, muscle, and ligament that counted. Afterwards she scattered ashes of the man who taught her to ski, her grandfather Don. On a mountain in South Korea, she said “I Love You” for the last time to her grandpa who was there at the beginning.
And in her final race she put everything she had on the line at the World Championships in Are, Sweden, and gutted out a Downhill bronze, to become the oldest medal winner ever in women’s Alpine skiing and the first woman to win six World Championship medals. It didn’t come easy on shattered legs.
It was Feb. 10, 2019 and she was 34. It was time to go. She had another life to live. To follow her own fall line. And it should be a glorious run.
She won 20 World Cup Crystal Globe titles, a record for men and women, and she is second all-time in World Cup wins. She finished with 82 wins