Lindsey had had two knee surgeries. Her ACL and MCL were torn. How does someone come back from such operational ordeals to sit atop a sport that, as Tiger marvels: “...it’s just scary how fast it is and how dangerous...” It’s astoundingly newsworthy.
Not surprisingly, NBC news has created a documentary on her struggles and successes. It’s called “The Climb.” It’ll air January 25th.
While you and I might wear a brace after injuries like these it would hinder performance in a sport where 1/100th of a second can mean the difference between victory and loss and where, according to Lindsey, the sport is “about 70/30 lower body to upper body.” (Her win at Lake “Lindsey” was by .49 of a second!)
Lindsey says she falls a lot. Physical tumbles, we don’t doubt her word but, boy, when she falls mentally, we walk from our words and watch in awe as she gets back on the saddle and figures out a winning ride, right quick. It takes a special breed of singular-purpose athlete to come back from pain, anguish, and despair. It takes an incredibly brave person to have no fear in a sport where mountains’ of risks loom. Her Sochi dreams were snuffed out just a scant few months prior in a training run wipeout but she’s determined to compete in the 2018 Olympics in South Korea. Maybe her caption, shared with other supreme female athletes in the Under Armour sports clothing campaign, being: I Will What I Want – says it all.
Listening to Lindsey, you get the feeling she’s driven not so much to best others, but to best herself. She doesn’t seem to have a voracious vindictive streak. Rather, she does seem to have a quiet confidence, under pinned by now a somewhat delicate knee and an “and-how!” resolutely hardened steel plate of resolve.
It’s like she learns from mistakes without unduly harping on them, and has found a balance in walking the fine line between introspection and depressive navel gazing.
A few years back she used her Giant Slalom wins at Soelden and Lake Louise as confidence builders. It may seem strange to talk confidence when talking Lindsey Vonn but even for a supreme athlete, confidence can be as fleeting as a downhill run - what with spotting indentations and best lines on the mountain - with the sky a slate gray under a blizzard, when darn it, minutes earlier the conditions were bright; what with summoning new data collection and calculation indices when course condition intricacies change around the next bend; what with musing while shushing why one didn’t take up tennis instead - where an all-points bulletin goes out at the sniff of showers.
Looking at ski racing from the safety of a rocking chair, armed with nothing more than a remote, is still a nerve tingling, jaw clenching, experience. The ski hill slope angles confound: as the cameras track skier progress around tight curves it seems those athletes will ski off the end of the earth - for gravity alone won’t be enough to restrain their momentum into the solar system; they whoosh down the hill at what, 50 some-odd miles per hour? And that is for the GS. Downhill speeds can hit over 70 mph.
It’s hard to fathom how a skier can excel at 5 disciplines all calling for special requirements in physical skills and equipment specifics. The Super Giant Slalom, or Super G, and the Downhill are known as speed events, the Slalom and Giant Slalom as technical. The Super Combined consists of one downhill and two slalom races. Best aggregate time wins…
Now what’s physiologically entailed in her disciplines? Muscular endurance and general balance, for starters. Try holding the skier’s crouch for 2 to 3 minutes. If your thighs haven’t quivered to kingdom come, why not go down a hill steeper than sin and try it? Even watching Vonn in a slalom training run, with turns every second or so, shows the core and lower body strength needed for such grueling, exacting exertions.
When Lindsey, at 20, turned her ski training and fitness routines upside down, overhauling all, and joined forces with Coach Robert Trenkwalder, her high altitude athleticism peaked - but not before she must have wondered of the risks in messing with a good thing. A comparable revamp might be to boyfriend Woods changing his swing when at the top of his game.
To be malleable and to not, despite stellar skiing success, deem oneself infallible, surely is integral to staying on top. And bouncing back after being laid flat by injuries would seem essential. Diligence in persistence, despite race result resistance, surely too, is crucial.
Lindsey Vonn, chock full of these features, also, seemingly, has the capacity to undergo rigorous self-analysis of her progress and position - unvarnished by praise from family and friends - and untarnished by dismay and trepidation from arm-chair quarterbacks - and this, too, separates her from the competition. She’s world famous, the best female American ski racer ever, but should she continue apace she’ll but one day be alone, on the throne, in space, in the rarefied air of a professional champion nearing perfection. With her will and skill on the hill, she’ll rule skiing’s citadel.