Sport: Alpine Skiing
Birthdate: October 18, 1984
Birthplace: St Paul, MN
Hometown: Vail, CO
Residence: Vail, CO
Olympics: 2006, 2002
Lindsey Vonn has already surpassed her childhood heroine Picabo Street’s career performance on several levels. Vonn’s two overall World Cup titles (2008, 2009), two world championship titles (downhill, super-G) in 2009 and 22 World Cup victories heading into the Olympic season are tops all-time among all U.S. female Alpine skiers.
She also became the first U.S. skier since Phil Mahre in 1983 to win the Skieur d’Or (Golden Skier) award as the skier of the year, male or female. What is astonishing is that she remains practically unknown in the United States. Already a huge celebrity in most of Europe, her casual charm, media-friendliness and attractive appearance add to what could be a meteoric rise to notoriety and stardom in the U.S. in the coming months and years.
The oldest of Alan and Linda’s five children, Vonn (nee Kildow) started skiing already by the age of two. Her first carving and gliding happened on the 300-vertical-foot runs at Buck Hill, a “bump” equipped only with a tow rope, near her childhood home in suburban St. Paul, Minn. Under the guidance of coach Erich Sailer, she was encouraged at an early age to find her own technique and to learn how to ski fast, even on a non-mountainous venue.
She exhibited such talent on the local level, that when she was ten, her father mapped out her skiing future. His program was specific, his scope global and his results envisioned reaching the pinnacle of Alpine: an Olympic downhill title in 2006 and the overall World Cup title in 2007.
By his impetus, the family picked up and moved to Vail, Colo., so that she could ski on world-class slopes. The move seemed to pay off early on, as she became the first American woman to win the prestigious Trofeo Topolino youth competition in Italy, and she won three Junior World Championships medals and two U.S. titles as a teenager.
In 2009, Vonn became only the third female racer — after Switzerland’s Anita Walliser (1987) and Sweden’s Anja Paerson (2007) — to win gold medals in both speed events (downhill and super-G) at one World Championships. After winning the second gold, she attended a party thrown in her honor by her ski manufacturers. Unable to pop a stubborn cork on a champagne bottle, she handed it to one of the company representatives, who — naturally — used a ski to force it open.
The only problem was that he also broke the lip of the bottle. Vonn grabbed the foaming bubbly and cut herself badly on the jagged glass. The next day, she was flown to Austria to have surgery performed for a torn thumb tendon on her right hand. Surprisingly, she returned to action without missing a single race, just as she had at the Olympics. The thumb does not bother her when she is skiing, but she admits jokingly that it does get sore when she signs a lot of autographs.