Lindsey Vonn celebrates at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 on Feb. 21, 2018 in PyeongChang, South Korea.
From world cup debut in Park City, Utah, in 2000 to heartfelt swansong this week in Are, Sweden, where she won world championship bronze in her final race, the professional ski racing career of Lindsey Vonn, the greatest skier of her generation and arguably the best of all time, spanned 6,658 days.
She was fearless from the beginning and unrepentant at the end, insisting that the punishment her joints have taken during the past decade was the price of greatness. Her only regret is being forced off the pistes by a body screaming for her to stop before she could attain the last prize of a long and legendary career: surpassing the 86 world cup victories amassed by Swedish legend Ingemar Stenmark during the 1970s and ’80s. She got to 82.
“Retiring isn’t what upsets me,” Vonn wrote in a bittersweet Facebook post earlier this month where she announced that she would stop racing after this week’s Alpine World Ski Championships in Are. “Retiring without reaching my goal is what will stay with me forever.”
The victories separating her and Stenmark may be the number Vonn will remember most, but there are so many others worth recalling, too. Here are just a few of them.
3Lindsey Vonn celebrates at the Olympic Winter Games Vancouver 2010 on Feb. 17, 2010 in Whistler, Canada.
The number of Olympic medals won by Vonn in the course of four Olympic Winter Games. After gold in the downhill and bronze in the super-G at Vancouver 2010 made her a household name and the first American woman to win Olympic downhill gold, a knee injury forced her to withdraw from contention for Sochi 2014. She returned to add downhill bronze at PyeongChang in 2018 that made her the oldest women’s alpine skier to medal. Her daredevil tendencies and numerous crashes meant injury was always lurking somewhere nearby, including in Torino where she was airlifted and hospitalized overnight only to return to competition two days later. Before Vancouver, she sustained a shin injury that put her participation into question, but true to form, she appeared fast and flawless on race day.
The number of years Vonn (then Lindsey Kildow) had been alive when she made her world cup debut on the slopes of Park City in November 2000, racing slalom. By that time, she had already made a huge impression on ski experts and aficionados, including her childhood hero Picabo Street, who marveled at her abilities as early as 1999. “The faster she went, the bigger smile she got on her face,” Street recalled in an interview with NBC Olympics last year. “I had never seen anybody ski as well as she could at that age.”
6Lindsey Vonn competes at the Olympic Winter Games Salt Lake City 2002 in Salt Lake City.
Vonn’s placement in combined at her first Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City in 2002. The result was the best finish in alpine skiing by an American woman at the Games, and a sign of things to come. Vonn was 17 at the time.
The number of medals obtained by Vonn over eight appearances at the world championships, including golds in the downhill and super-G from 2009. She skied off with silvers in her two best events the last time worlds were held in Are, back in 2007, and finished her career with bronze in downhill (her fifth worlds medal in that event) at her final race. Her collection also includes silver in downhill from 2011, and bronzes in super-G in 2015 and downhill in 2017. She ends her career as the oldest woman to medal at alpine worlds - by nearly two years - and one of only three racers to earn medals at six different worlds.
The vertical drop, in feet, at Buck Hill, the ski hill just south of Minneapolis where Vonn got her start in the sport. She’d go on to race downhill courses nearly three times as long on some of the most famous mountain ranges in the world. Vonn moved to Colorado to more seriously pursue skiing at age 12, but she remained loyal to the little hill where she got her start. “I always find it incredible that I’m succeeding in downhill after only racing slalom at Buck, under the lights, 7 to 9 every night,” she told MinnPost in 2008.
18Lindsey Vonn celebrates at the Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup on Dec. 6, 2014 in Lake Louise, Canada.
The number of victories recorded by Vonn at her beloved Lake Louise, Alberta — a course she came to dominate so much it became known as Lake Lindsey, a name officially given to the downhill course earlier this season. After missing this year’s season’s races there due to injury, Vonn initially said she’d delay her retirement so she could compete there next season. It would have been a fitting end for Vonn to be able to say goodbye on a course where she was so good she felt she could challenge the men on it. Her petitions to the FIS to let her enter men’s events were denied, but Vonn remained steadfast that she could attain a top-10 placement in any field there. “Lake Louise is her hill,” teammate Steven Nyman once commented to Ski Magazine. “Guys would be nervous.”
The number of crystal globes on display in her Vail, Colorado, condo, the most won by any skier, including an American record four overall titles. In this Vonn did surpass Stenmark, who owns only 19.
82Lindsey Vonn celebrates at the Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup on March 14, 2018 in Are, Sweden.
The number of times Vonn has stood atop a world cup podium and what is likely to be the most enduring statistic of her unparalleled career. She is part of a very exclusive club of only seven women to have won a world cup in all five traditional alpine skiing disciplines. The breakdown, in descending order: 43 in downhill, 28 in super-G, five in combined, four in giant slalom and two in slalom. Her first career victory, on the slopes of Lake Louise, Alberta, came on March 12, 2004. Her last, in Are, was March 14, 2018. Both came in downhill, her best and favorite way to race.