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Lindsey Vonn recently returned from a European vacation, skiing in France with a few family members and friends.
She said it was the first ski vacation she's had since she was 9 years old.
"It's a much different experience now," the Olympic gold medalist said Monday. "I enjoy kind of going slow – I mean, maybe not as slow as I should."
Nearly three years after retiring, Vonn, 37, said she remains as competitive as ever – giving friends a head start on the mountain, for instance, and racing to catch them. She will not be competing at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, the first Games since a string of injuries ended her professional career. But she said she's enjoyed the new stage of her relationship with the sport.
"I think in a lot of ways it made it easier that my decision was kind of made for me, in the sense that my body really was telling me that that enough was enough," Vonn said. "I think it would be very difficult for me to just stop on my own because I love it so much."
One of the most decorated U.S. female skiers in history, Vonn competed in four Winter Games and was, at one point, arguably the face of Team USA. She won three Olympic medals in her career, including a gold in downhill in Vancouver, on top of 82 victories in World Cup races. She retired in February 2019 after winning bronze in downhill at the world championships.
Vonn said she was "obviously sad" and "a little bit resentful" in the immediate aftermath of her retirement. She wanted to continue racing and said she would have tried to compete in Beijing if her body had held up. But in time, she's both processed those feelings and tried to spend time appreciating what she achieved in her career. Working on her new memoir, "Rise," has helped.
"I think in general it was very therapeutic," Vonn said. "Life is totally different once I retired. So I think it was an important time for me to be able to look back and remember my journey, appreciate my journey and be proud of where I am today.
"I think sometimes when you're in the moment you lose perspective of how hard you've worked and how far you've come. And I definitely, again, think I had a different perspective after a while of being retired."
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In the book, which was released Tuesday, Vonn takes readers through her early days in the sport – she and her father started mapping out her path to the Olympics when she was 9 – and her feelings at key junctures along the way. She writes about feeling overlooked and insecure as a teenage skier, for instance, and about the decision to use men's skis midway through her career.
Vonn also writes in detail about her battle with depression, which she managed throughout her career, in part with medication. She credits a new therapist with helping her work through retirement, which she describes as "harder than any of my injuries, harder than anything I’ve done."
"I’ve been all over the spectrum, from thinking I didn’t need a therapist, to having a difficult time opening up to someone, to where I am today," Vonn writes in the book. "Eventually, I came to realize that you won’t just wake up one day and discover that all your problems are gone. No one can do everything on their own — not even someone as independent and stubborn as I am."
Though it might feel a bit strange, Vonn said she's looking forward to just being a "regular spectator" for the upcoming Winter Olympics, which begin Feb. 4. It will help that the first Games after her retirement are being held in China, at a venue where she's never raced.
"I think if it were somewhere else, I would always think, 'Well, I could have skied that section better,' or I would've wanted maybe to ski there more," she said. "Because it's a new venue, because I'm retired, I think I'm going to be able to watch these Olympics and just be excited for my teammates."
Contact Tom Schad at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Winter Olympics: Lindsey Vonn talks challenges of retirement, skiing