Lindsey Vonn Chose Skiing Because It Was the Only Sport She Was Ever Good At

You’d be hard-pressed to find many winter athletes more accomplished than Lindsey Vonn. Though she’s now retired, Vonn spent a significant amount of time as one of the very best skiers in the world. Her career wasn’t just sunshine and rainbows, however – she had a significant down period due to injuries that she was able to come back from as well. 

It’s always interesting to look back at the beginning of a great athlete’s career and examine why they chose to compete in the sport they did. Many athletes could have excelled in multiple sports and Vonn is likely no different. But what was it about skiing that made Vonn want to participate in it? 

Lindsey Vonn’s early years

Lindsey Vonn
Lindsey Vonn | Amy Sussman/Getty Images

Born in St. Paul, Minnesota on October 18, 1994, Vonn had four siblings growing up. Her father, Alan Kildow, had been a competitive skier and was the person who got her into skiing. After training with coach Erich Sailer, Vonn moved to Colorado. At the age of 14 in 1999, she won the Trofeo Topolino slalom in Italy. Her age wasn’t the only amazing thing about her feat – she was also the first American woman to win the race. 

The next few years saw Vonn continue to triumph and improve as a skier. She soon caught the attention of Team USA. They named her to the U.S. Olympic skiing team for the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. 

The Olympic triumphs of Lindsey Vonn

Vonn has had some great performances in the Winter Olympics through the years. Below is a summary of how she’s performed in some of those competitions: 

  • 2002: In her first appearance on the world stage, she managed to finish only sixth in the Alpine combined and slalom. 
  • 2006: Thought to be a favorite to win a medal in Turin, Italy, disaster struck. Vonn crashed on a training run, thinking she may have broken her back. She had to be airlifted off the mountain. Miraculously, Vonn returned to competition within two days. While she did not medal, she did win the U.S. Olympic Spirit Award for her comeback. 
  • 2010: She medaled in downhill (gold) and the super-G (bronze). 
  • 2014: Vonn had to skip these Olympics due to a crash at the Alpine world championships the year prior. 
  • 2018: In a triumphant return to Olympic competition, Vonn won a bronze in the downhill during her final Winter Games appearance.  

Following her bronze in the downhill at the 2019 world championships, Vonn retired from competitive skiing. But what was it that motivated her to get involved with the sport in the first place? 

Why Lindsey Vonn chose skiing

Vonn is obviously a great athlete in optimal physical condition. So what pushed her towards skiing? According to Vonn, it was out of simple necessity. She told Esquire she simply wasn’t good at any other sports: 

“I’ve been skiing since I was 13. It was the only thing that I was good at. Believe me, I tried a lot of other things, and I was very bad at all of them. Tennis was one of those things. Figure skating was one of those things. I tried gymnastics, too. I was actually not half bad at gymnastics; I was just way too tall.”

It stands to reason that Vonn’s athletic prowess would have made her a fine candidate for any number of sports. But it’s probably lucky for her – and for the skiing world – that she landed on skiing. It’s also a lucky break that she wasn’t very good at the other sports she did attempt, otherwise she may have entered them instead. She didn’t, of course, and she made skiing history.