Lindsey Vonn: I’m here to help with mental health, ski advice

EDITOR’S NOTE: Lindsey Vonn is the most successful ski racer of all time with 82 career World Cup victories. She also won the downhill at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and has two other Olympic medals. “Get up: my story” his new memoirs will be published in January. Having retired from racing in 2019, Vonn offers his thoughts on some of the sport’s current themes in an occasional journal, told to AP Sports writer Andrew Dampf.

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With less than six weeks of the Winter Olympics, I’m starting to get excited about ski racing again. You are probably wondering, “Shouldn’t you always be enthusiastic about ski racing?” Well, it’s not that simple.

When I retired almost three years ago, it wasn’t because I was ready to stop running. It’s because my body gave in. My surgically repaired knees could not withstand the strain of rushing me up the mountain at 80 mph. For about a year after I retired I couldn’t watch skiing – it was too depressing.

It was difficult to get an idea of ​​retirement. Obviously, I always knew it would happen – every athlete has an end point. But for someone who is still in that “grind” state of mind, it’s not an easy thing to just shut down. So I tried to organize myself so that I always had work when I retired from skiing.

After I retired I took a week to myself and then started booking events and commuting to work. I was busier than ever. But just because I had an established job didn’t make the transition easy. It was hard. It was a new routine that wasn’t dictated by or around skiing.

From mental to physical trials, I had always used skiing as my outlet: no matter what happened, I could retire to the mountains. It was my place of happiness, a kind of meditation and escape.

That’s why it was difficult when skiing was gone when I retired. I had to find another way to mentally sort things out. I no longer had the possibility to ski. I haven’t had a “next race” or “next season” to make my comeback. I had to create new goals, with tangible elements and different deadlines. It took me a long time to find my place.

Now, I love that I can provide support and feedback to those going through any type of return, both mentally and physically. And I found a way to connect with skiing (and skiers) on another level.

Before and during last season’s world championships in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, I went on video with Breezy Johnson and tried to help him in any way I could. I think Breezy pretty much has the mental side. But I know she knows I’m always there if she needs me. Same thing with the other girls of the American team. I also developed a great relationship with Bella Wright. She is very curious and eager to learn and I love her energy.

And then there is Sofia Goggia, the Italian Olympic downhill champion. Like me, Sofia has battled a ton of injuries over the course of her career. But when she’s healthy, there’s no one faster. She’s been through a lot in her life, and I’ve helped her through a lot over the past few years. She’s a very tough competitor and I think we have a lot of similarities in the way we approach things.

I want to encourage current and next generation skiers to seek help when you need it.

I have learned to deal with a lot of these things on my own. I internalized it all and kept it bottled. When I was a teenager, mental health was not a far off thing, and there certainly was – and still is – a stigma to it. Back then, it was like, “Suck it up and hold it up.” There are so many resources these days and good people ready to help. To reach. I would like to know. There is no reason to feel alone in your struggles.

These days my biggest challenge is being multitasking and balancing all my different post-race commitments. I am a sponsor and general partner of two different venture capital funds. I am an advisor to a few companies. I still represent Under Armor, Rolex and Land Rover. And I design my own ski clothes.

So I have a lot of things to do but there isn’t as much pressure on me from the outside now; it’s more pressure than I put on myself. In fact, it’s like when I was running: the greatest pressure I ever put on me was on my own.

Fortunately, I now know that I am not alone.

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