Retired competitive skiier Lindsey Vonn visits UnderArmour to the delight of area high school students. (Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore Sun video)
Since retiring from competition this month, world champion skier Lindsey Vonn has traveled to Monaco for the Laureus World Sports Awards, attended Oscars events in Los Angeles and flew Monday into Baltimore to meet with Under Armour about her future role with the brand.
Through it all, Under Armour’s longest-standing athlete endorser still is coming to grips with life after the competitive slopes.
“The day-to-day life is definitely different,” Vonn said Tuesday in an interview at the company’s Locust Point headquarters. “It’s a little weird not being so regimented and having more freedom, but I’ll get used to it.”
After a Tuesday morning workout at the Under Armour Performance Center gym on Light Street with company founder Kevin Plank and other employees, Vonn made an appearance at the company’s Locust Point campus.
In a meeting area that doubles as a basketball court, she met with high school ski club members from two Baltimore-area schools, chatting with the girls and taking selfies. Then she posed for photos and signed autographs for dozens of Under Armour employees and their family members who formed a line extending out the building.
Noel Thomas, a 16-year-old junior at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute whose dad taught her to ski at age 4, couldn’t believe she got a chance to meet the Alpine skier known for her resilience. Vonn’s career has been beset by injuries but brought her 82 World Cup wins, three Olympic medals and numerous other awards, making her what many consider the greatest female skier in American history.
“I think it’s pretty crazy — I thought we were coming to see Under Armour, then we get to meet Lindsey Vonn also,” said Thomas, a member of Polytechnic’s ski club.
James Todaro, the ski and snowboard club adviser and computer science teacher at the city school, said he got the invitation for his students to attend Tuesday’s event after official school announcements already had been made for the week but it didn’t take long for word to spread.
“I wasn’t even sure if I’d be able to get in touch with all the team,” Todaro said. “I had one person’s phone number … and I texted her, and she got the word out really quickly, within 10 minutes.”
Thomas said she asked Vonn if coming back from injuries scared her.
“She said, no, it’s what she loves, so it doesn't matter, she just wants to get back out there,” Thomas said. “I think she’s really inspiring. She told me to do what you love and not be scared to hurt yourself or let anything get in the way of what you want to do.”
For Vonn, the decision to close the competitive skiing chapter of her life has been difficult.
“It wasn’t really the way I wanted to finish my career, but at the same time I think, all things considered, it was the best way I could have gone out, considering my knee and what position my body was in at the time,” she said.
Vonn said she has some “cool projects” coming up with Under Armour, which she and the company are yet to announce. She’s also running the Lindsey Vonn Foundation, with a mission of empowering young girls. And she hopes to try some career moves out of her comfort zone. For one, she has signed a contract to be executive producer of an upcoming feature film. And she would like to try acting.
“There’s a lot of projects in the works,” she said. “I feel like I’ve kind of started a whole ‘nother chapter as far as this is my next career. I think the possibilities are endless. It’s just a matter of what I have become passionate about. I have my hand in a lot of different things right now, but I have to really find what is going to make me excited.
“I think acting could be something that challenges me in a new way,” she said. “I like being pushed out of my comfort zone. Obviously, I had that in skiing. It’s going to be hard to replace skiing, and I just need to find something that really fills that void.”
On Tuesday, ski club members from Polytechnic and Maryvale Preparatory School in Brooklandville gathered around her. Vonn signed a ski helmet for Emma Lynch, a Maryvale sophomore.
The 15-year-old said she has been skiing for six years and competes on a ski racing team in Western Maryland.
“I’ve always looked up to [Vonn] as a skier. She’s the greatest,” Lynch said. “I loved watching her race, and the fact that she came back after such bad injuries is amazing.”
Vonn said she hopes to inspire not just skiers but all kids and anyone trying to overcome obstacles.
“The true power that athletes have is to really make the impossible seem possible, because it is,” she said. “You just have to believe in your dreams and believe in yourself and work hard enough to get there,. I hope people believe in themselves through my story.”