Battered and bruised, Vonn is down to her last race
United States' Lindsey Vonn is assisted after crashing during the women's super G at the alpine ski World Championships, in Are, Sweden, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019. (Pontus Lundahl/TT via AP)
Andrew Dampf, The Associated Press
Published Thursday, February 7, 2019 11:34AM EST
ARE, Sweden -- The red marks around her puffed-up right eye made Lindsey Vonn look like a roughed-up boxer. And that was nothing next to the purple-colored bruises and scrapes on U.S. teammate Laurenne Ross' backside.
All from one day's work as a downhill skier.
"Downhill is not a healthy sport, people crash all the time, every day," Vonn said. "If you want to be healthy, you should probably do another sport."
Vonn and Ross showed off the impacts of their crashes on social media Wednesday, a day after ending up in the safety nets from their falls in the super-G at the world championships.
The 34-year-old Vonn has made a career out of bouncing back from frightful crashes.
Now she's down to her final race -- and final fight.
Her knees battered beyond repair, Vonn plans to retire after Sunday's downhill race at worlds.
"I just can't push the limits anymore," Vonn said. "I've come back from way too many injuries and I'm just not able to do it. That's life. .. Not everyone can be Tom Brady and keep winning the Super Bowl for a million times."
Like Brady, Vonn has a trophy collection that most athletes could only dream about: Her 82 World Cup wins are by far the most ever by a female racer, leaving her five short of breaking the overall record held by Swedish legend Ingemar Stenmark. She has also won three Olympic medals, including gold in downhill, seven medals at worlds, four overall World Cup globes and 16 discipline titles.
"If you look at all the injuries I've had, winning in five events, it's really something amazing," Vonn said. "I'm proud of it no matter if I got 82 or 87. I wish I could have gotten (87) but not at the risk of the rest of my life."
While Vonn sat out downhill training Wednesday to recuperate from her latest crash -- after which she said she felt like she had been "hit by an 18-wheeler" -- she enjoyed a leisurely brunch of pancakes with her teammates.
It was just the kind of day Vonn was thinking about when she announced last week that she would retire after the championships -- having considered calling it quits after failing to finish a super-G in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy, last month.
"I didn't want to end in Cortina. I wanted to say goodbye to everybody," Vonn said. "It's been nice to get messages from my fellow competitors, the coaches and all my friends who've supported me for so many years. It's been really, really heartwarming for me and makes the process of retiring a little bit easier maybe because of all the responses I've gotten."
Vonn, whose career has transcended her sport in a way only a handful of Olympic athletes could even imagine , has been receiving well wishes from all corners since her retirement announcement. One in particular that stood out came from tennis great Billie Jean King .
"You are a true champion who never quit," King tweeted. To which Vonn replied, "Thank you Billie. ... Just trying to follow in your footsteps!"
Vonn is also planning on exchanging messages with Stenmark -- and she is wearing a suit this week featuring the blue and yellow colours of Sweden's flag in honour of the skiing great.
"I'm hoping Ingemar will come up for Sunday," she said. "Having my last race with him being there would be the best farewell I could possibly have."
When it's all over, the thing Vonn will miss most about ski racing is the thrill of hurtling her body downhill at speeds in excess of 120 kph (75 mph).
"You can't really find the adrenalin and the speed and the risk involved in ski racing in anything else," she said. "I kind of got that feeling when I was driving a Formula One car but it still wasn't the same. Your body isn't physically in harm's way.
"I need to go fast. I don't know how I'm going to fill that void," Vonn added. "Because I can't ski that fast if you go on the public trail. It is depressing. Life without skiing fast is not a happy thought."
------ AP Sports Writer Steve Douglas contributed to this report.