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Vail’s Lindsey Vonn saw her golden dream turn to bronze in the women’s downhill Wednesday (Tuesday night in the U.S.) at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, but her pride, emotion and fierce competitive spirit shone through at the end.
“It’s so rewarding,” Vonn said of her bronze medal behind Italy’s Sofia Goggia and Norway’s Ragnhild Mowinckel. “Of course, I would have liked a gold medal, but honestly, this is amazing, and I’m so proud.”
Vonn, of course, does have a gold medal in downhill — the only American woman to ever win ski racing’s fastest and most dangerous Olympic event. The Ski and Snowboard Club Vail product won that gold at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, where she also claimed bronze in super-G.
Now she has another bronze in downhill, becoming only the third American to win three or more Olympic medals in alpine ski racing, behind Bode Miller (six) and Julia Mancuso (four). Vonn, 33, also became the oldest woman to ever win an Olympic alpine skiing medal of any color.
An emotional Vonn told NBC after the race that she still feels she made her late grandfather proud.
“I wanted to win because of him, but I still think I made him proud,” Vonn said. “Our family never gives up, and I never gave up. I kept working hard and I’m really proud of this medal and I know he is too.”
Vonn has battled back from numerous injuries the last eight years, missing the 2014 Sochi Games but in the process becoming the greatest American World Cup skier ever with 81 career victories. She’s promised to keep skiing long enough to try to claim the overall record of 86 set by Sweden’s Ingemar Stenmark, but she is likely done at the Olympics.
“I’m sad. This is my last downhill,” Vonn told NBC. “I wish I could keep going. I’ve had so much fun; I love what I do. My body just probably can’t take another four years, but I’m just proud. I’m proud to have competed for my country; I’m proud to have given it my all.”
Goggia started fifth and put down the time to beat of 1 minute, 39.22 seconds on the Jeongseon Alpine Centre downhill course. Vonn started two racers later and appeared to have captured silver with a time of 1:39.69.
Then came the young Norwegian star in the making Mowinckel, who skied out of the 19th position to knock Vonn down a notch on the podium with a time of 1:39.31.
Vonn will compete one more time at these Games, racing in the alpine combined on Thursday (Wednesday night in the U.S.) alongside giant slalom gold medalist Mikaela Shiffrin of EagleVail. Vonn said she’ll hopefully be able to pull something out of her hat in that race, which combines the times from one run of downhill and one run of slalom.
But Vonn is not strong in slalom and likely will not have much of a shot at the podium. Still, the East Vail resident has had a remarkable Olympic career spanning four Winter Games.
Vonn joins another downhill great and fellow Minnesotan who calls the Vail Valley home. EagleVail resident Cindy Nelson was the first American, man or woman, to medal in an Olympic downhill, claiming bronze at the 1976 Innsbruck Winter Games that were originally supposed to be held in Colorado before voters rejected taxpayer funding.
Those were the Games where Franz Klammer turned in his epic, on-the-edge gold medal run in the men’s downhill, prompting Nelson to joke, “Franz, I’m still polishing my bronze and it hasn’t turned to gold yet. You win.”