Vonn talks retirement, racing the men and the Hahnenkamm

Courtesy of Red Bull Media Service Team

Ski star is at the famous Downhill race in Kitzbühel for the first ever time.

Retired alpine skiing legend Lindsey Vonn is attending the world famous Hahnenkamm-Rennen in Kitzbühel for the first time. She revealed since hanging up her racing suit and helmet, she has had to try and find a new relationship with the sport and that she is “jealous of the men” racing this weekend. 

The 35-year-old Vonn never got the chance to race down the Streif during her glittering career, in which she won four overall World Cup titles, 82 World Cup races and a litany of Olympic and world medals.

Having seen the slope first-hand, she said: “I really wish I would have at least got a chance to ski down it. Being here as a spectator, I’m so jealous of the men. It’s such an amazing track, the experience, the fans, the atmosphere, the scenery, it’s one of the most amazing sports venues in the world.”



On Saturday morning before the race, she will finally be in the start gate. Not to race, but Vonn will ski the course with Norwegian legend Aksel Lund Svindal. “I told him I’d only do it if he’d go with me. Aksel is my fearless leader”, she said.

Vonn dominated the sport of skiing like few ever before, but now she has to “try and find a new relationship with the sport.”

“I feel like skiing is like a bad break-up, so I need to keep some distance and some space. It’s hard because every time I watch it, it reminds me of what I’m missing. No matter how many business deals I make or companies I start, it’s never going to replace the adrenaline, speed and thrill of ski racing.”

During her career, Vonn expressed the desire to take on the men and test her skills against the very best. She never got the opportunity, but does she think a battle of the sexes could still take place in the future?



Vonn said: “I always thought that there would be more women that wanted to race against the men, but it’s surprising to me that no one really does, especially in speed.

“I wanted to race against the men because I wanted to be a better ski racer and I didn’t necessarily think I would beat everybody – far from that – I just wanted the experience, to learn from the best in the world.”

Vonn is now taking her competitive spirit and will to being the best to the business world. She is setting up her own cosmetics line, working on a range of skiwear for Head, running a production company and her foundation among other things.

Her time in retirement is also being spent planning her wedding to ice hockey player PK Subban. Of the big day, she said: “I hired the best wedding planner in the world which I’m very excited about! I’m just hoping I don’t have to worry about it. I looked at some wedding venues, I think we have a date, and Gucci is custom making me a dress which I am really excited about!”

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We caught up with Vonn in the Austrian Alps before the action got underway. Here is the full transcript:

Is this your first time back around skiing since retirement?

I haven’t been to Kitzbühel ever in my life. It’s also my first time watching a race after retirement and my first time being back in Europe on the ski circuit. So, there are a lot of firsts on this trip. It’s really exciting. It’s definitely a different position now, being retired and being on the circuit makes me feel different than it used to. I’m obviously not stressed anymore as I’m not racing so it makes me even more excited than normal as I can just relax, have fun and really enjoy the sport that I love.

Has it been hard for you to watch from afar, or have you been really into it as a fan?

I feel like skiing is like a bad break-up, so I need to keep some distance and some space! And I’m slowly getting back into watching it. It’s hard, because every time I watch it, it reminds me of what I’m missing. I find it easier to watch the men’s races obviously than the women’s, but of course I’m always cheering for my teammates and watching girls coming back from injury who’ve had a hard time. I always want to support them. For me, I kind of need some space still. But, as time goes on, I’ll be able to be more involved and it will be less painful for me, and I can kind of start to build a new relationship with ski racing.

You always wanted to race at the Hahnenkamm. Is it a regret you didn’t get the opportunity?

Before I was injured, I really wish I would have at least got a chance to ski down it. I wouldn’t even mind if I had raced, but it would have been cool for me to one time go down it with a race suit on and see what it’s like. Being here as a spectator, I’m so jealous of the men. It’s such an amazing track, the experience, the fans, the atmosphere, the scenery, it’s one of the most amazing sports venues in the world in any sport so I’m just jealous and frankly in awe of all these men. They’re pretty incredible.

You also wanted to get a chance to race against the men. Do you think we will ever see a female skier racing against the men?

I always thought there would be more women that wanted to race against the men, but it’s surprising to me that no one really does, especially in speed. I think if [Sofia] Goggia was skiing a bit better right now, I think she’d be of the same mindset because we’re very similar in the way we think. Everyone has their own goals and ambitions. I wanted to race against the men because I wanted to be a better ski racer and I didn’t necessarily think I would beat everybody – far from that – I just wanted the experience, to learn from them. Everyone has their own motivations and ambitions, and I think my ambitions were different from most. I hope someone tries to do it. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a lot of support from the FIS, but I had a lot of support from a lot of the male counterparts and a lot of the media. I think there’s still a long way to go if someone wants to see that through.



We’ve heard you say your retirement was harder than you expected it to be. What’s been the most difficult thing to let go of?

I think about retirement and where I am now, it’s not really about letting go as much as just not being able to do what I love anymore. That’s like a bad break-up where I just miss it, and wish I could still do it but physically I wasn’t able to and it’s a hard reality to accept. No matter how many business deals I make or companies I start, it’s never going to replace the adrenaline and the speed and the thrill of ski racing. It’s something I have to learn to live with and I just thought it would be a little easier than it was but when you wake up and your world’s totally different and the reality sinks in, it just makes you sad sometimes.

Do you miss the competition?

Being in the starting gate is one of the most amazing feelings in the world, where you’re just emotionally, physically at your peak and your heart rate is at 180. You’re just ready to go and you don’t get that doing anything else so, yeah, I miss that. I don’t really miss competition necessarily; I just miss the excitement and the thrill and the speed.

You’ve talked about plans in the cosmetic industry. What are you like as a businesswoman? 

I think starting a business is pretty similar to skiing in the sense that you have to work hard to be the best and I have a lot to learn. I’m a ski racer, but I’ve been doing business for quite a long time so I do have knowledge but far behind other successful businesses. I love the challenge and I’m going to apply myself just as I did in ski racing. Hopefully that equals success. I don’t know if it necessarily will, but I’m going to work hard to be the best in business that’s possible.

What about the sporting side. Will you still be involved in skiing?

My foundation helps support Alice Robinson. We’re excited about how she’s doing and kind of help her break into the World Cup circuit. My former team is helping her along the way, and I’m always in communication with my former teammates. Most of them are coming back from injury so I’m trying to help them a lot. Sofia Goggia as well. I always told everyone on the World Cup that my door is always open, especially to my teammates. I’m not gone just because I’m not racing anymore. My door’s always open, so however I can be of help to them I will. We’re talking of potentially staying more involved in ski racing in the US by being on the board but that’s TBD at the moment.

What’s your feelings about going on the track tomorrow?

I’m just going to follow Aksel on the course. He’s my fearless leader and, whatever he says I should do, I’m going to do. I want to see all the jumps. I’ve watched it on TV so many times that I kind of think I know what it’s all about but when you get on the course it’s totally different. So I’m going to soak it all in and follow my fearless leader Aksel and see what happens.

Are you interested in trying any new sports?

I don’t know! Unless I’m doing archery or curling, I think there’s not a lot of low-impact sports I can do.

Is it more stressful preparing for a big race, or planning a wedding?

I hired the best wedding planner in the world, which I’m very excited about. I’m just hoping she does her thing and I don’t have to worry about it because that’s the page I’m on right now. I looked at some wedding venues, I think we have a date and Gucci is custom making me a dress. The CEO is so kind to me so I’m very lucky so I’m not going to stress about the details.

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