Lindsey Vonn is pursuing a career in acting, modeling, and writing a memoir.
After tearing the lateral collateral ligament in her left knee and retiring from skiing in 2019, Olympic gold medalist Lindsey Vonn suffered with emptiness and grief, comparing it to a death in the family.
Vonn said in a 2020 interview with sports journalist Graham Bensinger that she was leaving skiing because her body couldn’t keep up with her emotional desire to win. In 2020, she asked him, “Is it going to be really that fun to drive a Prius if you’re a Formula 1 driver?” “It doesn’t feel the same.”
However, the 5-foot-10 Olympian’s outlook has shifted dramatically since that interview.
“[Retirement] was incredibly difficult for me to adapt to, but I am now in a very good position, which I am grateful for,” she says with a smile to Alexa. “The more time I spent away from the sport, the better.”
It’s understandable that the transition took a few moments. Vonn’s life had revolved around the slope since she was two years old, when her father, Alan Kildow, put skis on her tiny feet. She began racing competitively at the age of seven, and her family relocated from Minnesota to Vail, Colorado, in the late 1990s so she could focus on the sport. Vonn made her Olympic debut at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games when she was just 17 years old. Vonn had 82 World Cup victories by the time she retired at 34, making her the most decorated female skier in US history.
Her life off the slopes, on the other hand, was no less intense. In 2011, Vonn divorced her former coach and husband, Thomas Vonn, after a relationship that allegedly led to her father’s estrangement. Her three-year relationship with golf superstar Tiger Woods and her latest engagement to NHL player P.K. Subban, which ended in December, later made headlines. (The couple recently listed their Beverly Hills mansion for $7.1 million, and Vonn recently purchased a $3.4 million bachelorette pad in the area.)
The former champion knew she wanted to build other paths to success after that whirlwind, and without the rigors of competition framing her life.
“I used racing as a crutch because there was something lacking — skiing, which had always been there.”
Vonn is now focusing on a number of projects, including co-founding Après Productions with her childhood friend Claire Brown, designing a ski collection for Head, and writing a memoir, “Rise: My Story,” for HarperCollins. Last fall, she took a trip to the Bahamas with friends to celebrate her birthday, something she hadn’t done since she was a teenager.
She reflects, “There was always a reason I couldn’t do anything, but now I’m just limited by what I want to do.”
She also rediscovered her passion for the sport that made her famous after she eased up. “This year, I’ve done a lot of skiing and am rediscovering my love for it. Powder is becoming increasingly appealing to me. It’s much better on my knees than moguls and racing.”
If the last two years have been a time of emotional healing, they’ve also been a period of physical transformation. Vonn’s body has endured (and overcome) enough injuries throughout her career to fill the pages of “War and Peace.”
Her back injury occurred in December 2017, and she underwent surgery for a broken humerus bone in November 2016. She broke her ankle in a collision in New Zealand the previous year, and she had to be carried off the course in a sled three months later due to a hairline fracture in her left knee. With a fractured right shin, she won gold in the downhill at the Vancouver Olympics. Vonn crashed during a downhill training run during the 2006 Olympics and was airlifted by helicopter, only to return two days later and finish eighth.
Although most of her injuries were the result of her job, one was downright unlucky: she sliced open her right thumb while celebrating her 2009 World Championship win, cutting a tendon on a broken champagne bottle.
Vonn now works out three times a week with Gunnar Peterson, a celebrity trainer whom she regularly documents on Instagram. “All I care about is holding my knee stable and feeling good.” However, the combination of cardio and strength training produced an unexpected result.
She says, “I’m a lot leaner.” “I used to do things that required me to be bigger because they were sport-specific. Everyone, on the other hand, thinks, ‘Oh my Goodness, you’re in the best shape of your life.’ It’s a case of yes and no. I’m not training for my sport anymore; I’m training to lose weight and get in shape.”
Vonn, on the other hand, has always had a solid, sinewy frame and has never needed permission to experiment with fashion.
“A lot of people have told me, ‘You shouldn’t wear that.’ It’s not flattering on your body form.’ Alternatively, ‘You’re too muscular for that.’ I won’t name names, but I’ve had a lot of people say hurtful things to me.”
Thankfully, she never paid heed.
Vonn was one of the first female athletes to reach the fashion industry, along with Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova, attending the Met Gala with then-beau Woods in 2013 and landing in Vogue a few months later. She was a refreshing change from the regular stick-thin models and actresses, posing for the fashion bible in a flowing Narciso Rodriguez dress that showed off her sculpted gams.
“I felt like it was a huge step for me to be accepted in that way,” she says. “Vogue is the benchmark in fashion, and it wasn’t really open to athletes — it was strictly models — so I felt like it was a big step for me to be recognized in that way.”
Vonn is also friends with designer Cynthia Rowley, who was Vonn’s industry Sherpa in 2013, introducing her to the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) Awards. She has also recently wowed designer Thom Browne. Vonn wore a gold couture dress over a tuxedo jacket in a fairytale dream sequence for the purveyor of skinny suits’ fall 2021 ad, which featured her traipsing through a snowy wonderland in a fairytale dream sequence.
“We filmed in Utah for two days, and it was incredible,” she says. “It meant a lot to me that he wanted me to be a part of it.”
Vonn, who has always competed for a complete face of makeup, is branching out into the world of cosmetics with her own brand (whose launch was pushed to 2022 due to COVID-19). “It’s about goods that can do many things,” Vonn explains.
She may very well be referring to herself.
The Olympian has recently embraced her role as an elder sports stateswoman, acting as a sounding board for current US Alpine Ski Team members and opening up her home as a de facto rehab center for athletes recovering from surgeries. Vonn has a special bond with Alice McKennis and Breezy Johnson, two young skiers.
Vonn says, “They consistently reach out to me.” “It gives you the feeling that you did everything right. It’s highly satisfying.”
Picabo Street, her childhood hero and mentor, famously stepped into the role for her.
“It’s full circle now — [Street] encouraged me to try to inspire others. Vonn refers to her eponymous girls’ empowerment and scholarship organization as “the reason I built my foundation.”
Après Productions’ first film is a documentary about her mentor, which she is currently working on. “We have a wonderful friendship, and I am able to show her how much she means to me. We had already conducted some interviews, and there was a lot of weeping. It was a really emotional experience.”
Vonn’s second act is shaping up to be just as fast-paced as her first, but she’s never one to back down from a challenge.
“To be honest, these have been some of the scariest moments of my life because I have no idea what lies ahead,” she says. “As an athlete, you want to keep as many factors under your influence as possible. And I don’t have any power over any of the variables right now. I’m just trying to remain present and spend time with the ones who matter to me.”