(ATR) U.S. ski racing star Lindsey Vonn took a short break from her busy competition schedule to meet with young Olympians in Lillehammer.
Vonn at the Chat with Champions in the Learn and Share Center (ATR)
The 31-year-old Vonn – who is serving as a Lillehammer 2016 Games athlete ambassador – answered various questions, shared stories, and offered advice and perspective to young athletes. The “Chat with Champions” session took place at the Learn & Share Culture Center at Haakon Hall.
Approximately 20 young Olympians competing in the 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games, representing Austria, Canada, Croatia, France, Slovenia, and Bosnia, gathered at a relaxed and slightly informal 45-minute Q&A setting.
One of the first questions Vonn received was about how to rehab from a knee injury and successfully return to the slopes, something that the American skier is all too familiar with.
“When I came back from my injuries I was afraid, but by the second time I knew if you do the work and get strong then you can’t ever doubt that you’re strong enough to keep competing,” Vonn advised the injured skier. “The work is not just about rehabbing your body, but it’s also about making sure that you’re mind is strong.”
Vonn, who missed the Sochi 2014 Games while she rehabilitated a knee injury, is a three-time Olympian. She won downhill gold and super-G bronze at the 2010 Vancouver Games.
A Croatian alpine skier asked if Vonn is scared to ski a slope that she previously has crashed on.
Vonn noted that the first time she raced in Lake Louise, Canada, she was helicoptered off the mountain after a bad crash. She explained how she has rebounded to win more races in Lake Louise, 18, than any other stop on tour.
“Even when I win, I look at what I did right, I look at what I did wrong and I put it behind me,” Vonn said. “I put it behind me – you have to stay focused on the positive things.”
Lindsey Vonn and with her puppy Lucy (ATR)
The American skier brought along her new puppy Lucy to Haakon’s Hall, triggering even more camera shutters from the various photographers and media gathered to observe the three-time Olympian interact with teen-aged athletes.
Vonn spoke about her first Olympic Games in Salt Lake City 2002. She said that it was a “very eye opening” and the coolest part for her was meeting so many different athletes from different sports and countries. “I think the cultural part of the Olympics is the coolest thing about it, you guys have a great opportunity to be here and this is very similar to what it will be like if you make it on to the real Olympics.”
Also posing a question to the ski racing star was fellow U.S. Olympic gold medalist Angela Ruggiero, who has been the coordination commission chair for the Lillehammer Winter YOG. The four-time Olympian in womens’ ice hockey asked Vonn why and how she manages to fulfill responsibilities as a role model to help the next generation.
Vonn answers a question from U.S. Olympic gold medalist Angela Ruggiero (ATR)
“I think as an athlete you have the unique opportunity to be able to positively impact people,” Vonn said. “I was inspired at nine-years-old by Picabo Street, who was an Olympic gold medalist. If I hadn’t met her, I don’t know if I would have gotten to this point, so if I can impact you in some way or inspire you then I’ve accomplished
The four-time overall World Cup champion also visited athletes during a tour of the Olympic village on Monday, but was unable to participate in an evening roundtable discussion with a panel of fellow senior Olympians as scheduled.
Also on Monday (Feb. 15), photos of Vonn posing at the beach adorned in only body paint from a shoot in Petit St. Vincent in the Grenadine Islands surfaced. She is back in the popular Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue for the first time since 2010, in between making headlines for dating golfer Tiger Woods and suffering a major knee injury that caused her to miss the 2014 Sochi Games.
Vonn, who currently stands at 76 World Cup victories, ten shy of the legendary Swede Ingemar Stenmark’s record, is off to La Thuile, Italy for downhill and super-G races this weekend. The Vail, Colorado skier currently leads the overall World Cup standings by 87 points over Swiss Lara Gut.
The season concludes with the World Cup finals in St. Moritz, March 16-20.
Reported in Lillehammer by Brian Pinelli
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