One final race, medal for Vonn
Bronze pads record-breaking career
ARE, Sweden — Lindsey Vonn walked off with her career haul of medals in hand, the clinking metal almost weighing her down.
Or was it the knee braces and support rods inside her many broken bones?
Regardless, it was a reminder of what Vonn symbolizes — an athlete who battled back from one major injury after another to win more ski races than any other woman.
Five days after Vonn crashed in super-G and three months after tearing a ligament in her left knee, Vonn won the bronze medal in the world championship downhill Sunday in the final race of her career.
“I’m literally tapped out, I can’t cry anymore,” Vonn said. “It’s not an easy thing to feel your bones hitting together and continue to push through it.”
Vonn planned on retiring in December but moved that date up due to pain in her knees. Then came the crash, when she hit a gate midair, flew face first down the mountain and slammed into the safety nets.
The win brings Vonn full circle: her two silvers at the 2007 worlds on the same course were her first major championship medals.
“I was weighing in my mind the risk of putting it all out there, crashing and getting injured again, as opposed to finishing where I wanted to,” Vonn said.
As she exited the finish area Sunday, Vonn embraced Swedish great Ingemar Stenmark, the only skier to win more World Cup races — 86 to her 82.
“I basically begged him to come here via text, in all caps, many exclamation points,” said Vonn, who started her run wearing a suit with Sweden’s colors to honor Stenmark.
“I was just so grateful that he was there. Honestly, it’s a perfect ending to my career.”
The third skier on the course, Vonn beamed as she came down with the fastest run to that point.
Ilka Stuhec of Slovenia took gold, defending her 2017 worlds title. She finished 0.23 seconds ahead of silver medalist Corinne Suter of Switzerland and 0.49 ahead of Vonn.
“Not many were counting on [Vonn] to get the medal in her last race, which makes it even more special,” Stuhec said.
Vonn became the first female skier to win medals at six different world championships with her fifth downhill medal at worlds, matching the record held by Annemarie Moser-Proell and Christel Cranz.
Vonn, 34, also beat her record for oldest woman to win a worlds medal.
“I’m looking forward to just chilling out a bit and recovering everything, including my mind,” she said.
Lindsey Vonn poses with the medals she won in the past 12 years in the finish area after the women’s downhill race at the alpine ski World Championships Sunday in Are, Sweden.
Lindsey Vonn finishes the last race of her career.