After crashing in the World Championship super-G and having to come to terms with the idea that her body was demanding immediate retirement, Lindsey Vonn made her final race appearance in Sunday’s World Championships downhill race, just hoping to make it down safely and take one last bow to her fans in the finish area, reports Ski mag.
But instead of just finishing in one piece, the 34-year-old American made history one more time by becoming the oldest female racer to medal at a World Championships by taking home the bronze.
- Related: BREAKING NEWS: Lindsey Vonn Will Officially Retire After Two Final Races In Åre, Sweden Next Week
On Sunday, Vonn, wearing bib number 3, stepped into the start house for the 432 and final time. Still nursing a black eye from her crash in Tuesday’s super-G race, Vonn battled significant nerves in this final race. More than anything, Vonn wanted to end her storied 18-year professional racing career on a high note. But making it down safely took priority even over that.
“I’m too old to be crashing that hard,” Vonn told NBC after her super-G crash. “It’s just time to be done. My body is not doing what my mind is telling it to do anymore. And I can’t be taking these kinds of risks anymore and crashing that hard,” Vonn told NBC after her super-G crash. “I’ve accepted the position that I’m in”.
Those thinking that Vonn would, therefore, ski more conservatively in her final run, however, would be proven wrong. Vonn kicked out of the start gate in her signature form—a yell of aggression, a few strong pushes, and then immediately getting into a tight, low tuck. She had no trouble with the section of the course that led to her crash in the super-G and stuck to a high, direct line. Though she trailed the current leader, Germany’s Viktoria Rebensburg, by 0.23 seconds at the first split, Vonn, a superior glider in straight and flat sections of downhill courses, made up that time and then some, crossing the finish line 0.33 seconds ahead of Rebensburg.
As she saw her time flash up on the screen in the finish area, Vonn beamed a huge smile, threw her hands up in the air in triumph, and bowed to her fans in the crowd.
“I laid it all on the line, that’s all I wanted to do today,” Vonn told NBC after she finished. “I have to admit I was a bit nervous, probably the most nervous I’ve ever been in my life. I just wanted to finish strong so badly. I had a really hard time controlling my nerves and I never have a hard time with that, so, I’m just happy I made it to the finish. And I came down in the lead which is nice for my last race.”
While it wasn’t gold, a bronze World Championship medal is still a fitting end to Vonn’s illustrious career. This medal marks the fifth World Championship downhill medal and Vonn ties Christel Cranz and Annemarie Moser-Pröll for the record of most World Championship downhill medals.
While she finishes her career with 82 World Cup wins, Vonn did not achieve the ultimate goal she set for herself at the start of the season—beating Ingemar Stenmark’s record for World Cup wins (86). But the legendary Swedish racer was at the finish of her final race to help celebrate her historic career.
“Ingemar being in the finish line was literally the best thing that’s ever happened in my life,” Vonn, who is close with Stenmark, said after her race.