US Ski Team champion Lindsey Vonn will retire from the sport after races in Åre, Sweden, later this month due to serious injuries she announced in emotional posts on social media on Friday.
“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,” Vonn wrote on Instagram.
Vonn is considered the greatest US woman skier of all time, and is the most successful alpine World Cup woman skier in the world.
She will be remembered not just for her record “but as an athlete who has inspired people around the world, both in and out of the sport of ski racing, for many years,” said US Ski & Snowboard President Tiger Shaw in a statement provided to BuzzFeed News.
Vonn started skiing at age 3 and competed in her first races at age 7. She joined the US Ski Team in 2002 when she was 17 years old.
She became the first US woman to win an Olympic gold medal in downhill skiing at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, despite a badly bruised shin from a crash two weeks prior.
"Over the past few years I have had more injuries and surgeries than I care to admit. I have always pushed the limits of ski racing and it has allowed me to have amazing success but also dramatic crashes," Vonn wrote in her statement.
Vonn said that a crash she had in November left her with a tear to her LCL in her left knee and that "despite extensive therapy, training and a knee brace, I am not able make the turns necessary to compete the way I know I can."
In 2015, she broke the women’s world record for all-time World Cup wins, surpassing Annemarie Moser-Pröll’s 62 wins.
After skipping the Sochi games due to a knee injury, Vonn fought to compete in the Pyeongchang Olympics in 2018 saying she wanted to defend her Olympic gold medal.
She took home bronze in downhill skiing in Pyeongchang, saying at the time that it would be her last Olympics.
“This is my last downhill. I wish I could keep going, you know. I have so much fun. I love what I do,” Vonn told NBC, tearing up in a post-race interview. “My body just can’t, probably can’t take another four years.”
With 82 World Cup titles, Vonn is just shy of accomplishing her goal of beating all-time record holder Ingemar Stenmark’s 86 World Cup victories.
On Instagram, Vonn wrote that failing to accomplish this goal was the most upsetting part about her decision to retire: “Honestly, retiring isn’t what upsets me. Retiring without reaching my goal is what will stay with me forever. However, I can look back at 82 World Cup wins, 20 World Cup titles, 3 Olympic medals, 7 World Championship medals and say that I have accomplished something that no other woman in HISTORY has ever done, and that is something that I will be proud of FOREVER!”
Vonn has suffered numerous injuries throughout her career, overcoming serious knee injuries, a broken ankle, and multiple fractures near her knee to return to the sport time and again.
"There are a lot of athletes who achieve amazing results and when they get hurt, especially multiple times, they ask themselves, 'Is it worth it?'" US Alpine director Patrick Riml told the AP in 2017.
"Her determination, her drive to become better, to win more races, it's unbelievable,” he said.
“I have always pushed the limits of ski racing and it has allowed me to have amazing success but also dramatic crashes,” Vonn said in her Instagram post. "I have never wanted the storyline of my career to be about injuries.”
She thanked fans in the post and said she was looking forward to her last races in Sweden.
“I can’t wait to see some of you in the finish in Åre where I will give it my all one last time,” she wrote.