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Lindsey Vonn Says Being A Legendary Athlete "Goes Far Beyond Your Sport"

The champion skier said it is important for athletes to be a role model "off the court as well as on."

Posted on February 22, 2019, at 12:32 p.m. ET

Lindsey Vonn says she believes being a great athlete isn't just excelling at your sport, but doing good for the world as well.

In an interview on BuzzFeed News' Profile, the skiing legend and Olympic gold medalist was asked what greatness means to her as one of the greatest female athletes in the history of her sport.

BuzzFeed News

"It's obviously about your athletic performance and what you've been able to do in your given sport, but it also goes far beyond your sport," she said. "It's how you affect others and how you inspire others and how you act as a role model and a champion, how you conduct yourself off the court as well as on."

She added that she thinks the title the "greatest" athlete is "all-encompassing."

"I think you just can't be one thing, you have to be more than an athlete," she said.

Vonn named Michael Jordan, Roger Federer, and Serena Williams as that kind of GOAT, inspiring people not only with their athleticism but by what they are able to do off the court.

Vonn said she "hoped" to be up there with other legendary athletes but didn't think it was something one can claim about themselves.

"I always have tried to be a good role model, and I have my foundation, and our mission is to inspire young girls," she said.

Later in the interview, Vonn talked about public reaction to the time she spoke up for what she believed in. Last year, she told reporters she would not be representing President Trump at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

She told BuzzFeed News she had "never experienced so much hate in my entire life" than after she made the comments.

Gero Breloer / AP

Lindsey Vonn celebrates after winning the gold medal in the women's downhill at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics in Whistler, British Columbia.

"It was shocking and, frankly, really appalling that people could say the things that they said," she said.

Vonn said she found the vitriol "completely unnecessary."

"We might not all agree on all our opinions, but that's what makes America great," she said. "We should respect each other."

She added that some of the hate appears to come from a consensus that athletes shouldn't have political opinions and should only speak out about sports.

"I think a common misconception with athletes is that we aren't smart enough to make our own opinions on anything else, especially politics," Vonn said.

She added that she wouldn't change what she said.

"I have my beliefs and my values and I stick to them like everyone else should, and I'm just me, that's all I can do."

Watch Lindsey Vonn's interview on Profile on Facebook Watch on Feb. 28.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.