'Body broken beyond repair': Lindsey Vonn announces she'll retire after World Championships

Yahoo Sports
United States’ Lindsey Vonn smiles after competing in Cortina D’Ampezzo, Italy, last month in her penultimate skiing weekend. (AP Photo/Giovanni Auletta)
United States’ Lindsey Vonn smiles after competing in Cortina D’Ampezzo, Italy, last month in her penultimate skiing weekend. (AP Photo/Giovanni Auletta)

Lindsey Vonn has struggled to make a return for her final season and announced Friday the World Championships in Are, Sweden, will be her final race.

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Vonn has dealt with injuries to both knees and pinball-ed around the retirement choice for months now. The announcement comes a day after her name appeared on the U.S. roster for the World Championships, eliciting hope she would return and race the rest of the season.

Vonn, 34, is a three-time Olympic medalist and two-time overall world champion. She will retire as the winningest female skier in world history with 82 World Cup victories.

She is five away from breaking the all-time record set by Sweden’s Ingemar Stenmark, which she will no longer be able to reach. The goal weighed heavily on her commitment to a final season.

Vonn reveals additional surgery, crash details

Vonn went through many injuries, surgeries and rehabs in her career – so much so that it came to define her career.

In her retirement post, she revealed she underwent an additional surgery last spring that removed a “large portion of cartilage that had delaminated” from the bone.

On the World Cup circuit in 2017 she suffered a hard crash in December at Lake Louise, her favorite course, when her skis clipped each other on the final turn in the downhill. She flew into the fencing but walked away, later tweeting “Can’t keep me down!” Vonn raced in the Olympics two months later.

Vonn revealed in her retirement post on Facebook that the crash was “much more painful than I let on,” but she continued with the race and season. She wanted an Olympic medal in honor of her late grandfather, who died in November, and did so with a bronze in the downhill she dedicated to the Korean War veteran.

‘My body is broken beyond repair’

Vonn wavered on her retirement decision in 2018. She started out setting her sights on the world record, then backed off and decided even if she didn’t get it, 2018-19 would be her last.

When she crashed in Copper in November, she again rethought retirement since it meant missing one last go at Lake Louise, where she has 18 medals. She set it for December 2019 to race there one more time.

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The skiing legend injured her left knee, tearing her LCL and suffering three fractures. She returned to race at Cortina last month and suffered yet another setback with an impact injury to a nerve in her knee that kept her from finishing a race.

It sparked initial concerns she wouldn’t be able to continue. She attempted rehab, but admitted she might not get the career ending she wanted. 

“Despite extensive therapy, training and a knee brace, I am not able to make the turns necessary to compete the way I know I can,” she wrote on Facebook. “My body is broken beyond repair and it isn’t letting me have the final season I dreamed of. My body is screaming at me to STOP and it’s time for me to listen.” 

Vonn said even knowing “what lies ahead for my body,” it was all worth it and she holds no regrets about injuries, comebacks, therapy, preparation or pain. She added that arthritis is the “least of my worries” and she hopes to be able to ski with her kids one day.

Vonn’s record-setting career

Vonn stressed in her post that this was not her giving up, but a pivot into starting a new chapter. She wrote that retiring is not upsetting, but doing so “without reaching my goal is what will stay with me forever.”

She has 82 World Cup victories, the record on the women’s side, something she reiterated she will be proud of forever.

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“So please let my story be of comebacks, victories and even injuries, but do not tell my story as one of failures or unreached goals,” she wrote.

She has 20 World cup titles, three Olympic medals and seven World championship medals. She won gold in the downhill and bronze in the Super-G at the 2010 games in Vancouver. She added the bronze in Pyeongchang for her late grandfather.

The St. Paul, Minnesota, native is one of six women to have won World Cup races in all five disciplines of alpine skiing.

When is Vonn’s final race?

The 2019 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships will be held Feb. 4-17 in Sweden. Vonn is one of 13 skiers on the U.S. team.

Mikaela Shiffrin, often viewed as Vonn’s successor to the sport, will go for her fourth consecutive world championship slalom title. Joining the women’s roster is Alice Merryweather, Paula Moltzan, Nina O’Brien and Laurenne Ross.

As for Vonn, she said in her initial retirement decision that she wants to expand her Lindsey Vonn Foundation and start a small business of some sort.

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