“After many sleepless nights, I have finally accepted that I cannot continue ski racing,” Vonn wrote in an emotional Facebook post. “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.”
The Alpine skier known for her resilience said she plans to compete next week in both the downhill and super-g events at the World Championships. Those will be the final races of a long career that has brought 82 World Cup wins, 20 World Cup titles, three Olympic medals and seven World Championship medals, making Vonn what many consider the greatest female skier in American history.
But the last few years have been full of “more injuries and surgeries than I care to admit,” Vonn said. “I have always pushed the limits of ski racing, and it has allowed me to have amazing success but also dramatic crashes.”
The 34-year-old skier is Under Armour’s longest standing athlete endorser, having signed with the brand at age 16.
“We are incredibly proud of Lindsey’s unprecedented accomplishments both on and off the slopes,” Tori Hanna, sports marketing director for Under Armour, said in a statement. “Lindsey’s unwavering determination and will have paved the way for the next generation of athletes.”
Moving forward with Vonn and the brand, “we have some special things planned,” said Diane Pelkey, an Under Armour spokeswoman.
Vonn said on Facebook that she had kept under wraps a surgery she underwent last spring in which a large portion of the cartilage that had de-laminated from her bone was removed. And she said a crash in Lake Louise before last year’s Winter Olympics was much more painful than she let on. She continued to race, she said, because she wanted to win a medal in the Olympics for her late grandfather. She did — a bronze in the downhill, becoming the oldest woman to win an Alpine medal.
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She fought back in rehab over the summer only to crash during a Super G training run in November at Copper Mountain, Colorado, injuring her left knee, tearing her LCL, lateral collateral ligament, and suffering three fractures. She has been undergoing extensive therapy and training and wearing a knee brace but said she is not able to make the turns to compete the way she once did.
Vonn’s many setbacks were at the heart of the Under Armour Unlike Any women’s campaign she starred in last year, which included a short film released just days before last February’s Winter Games in South Korea, Vonn’s first Olympics since 2010. She missed the 2014 Olympics because of a serous knee injury. Under Armour’s campaign celebrated female athletes who shatter expectations and looked at ways in which debilitating injuries served to motivate Vonn.
“At this point, arthritis is the least of my worries, and I hope I can still ski with my kids some day,” Vonn said in her Facebook post on Friday.
She took to social media in part to let her fans know she’s not giving up, just starting a new chapter.