Lindsey Vonn intends to race for at least another four years, though not starting up again until the beginning of the next World Cup season in October at the earliest as she recovers from major knee surgery.
“After making the decision not to compete in Sochi, I have actually committed myself to racing through to the next Olympics,” Vonn said on “TODAY” while sitting encumbered by a large right knee brace in Pensacola Beach, Fla., on Tuesday morning. “I’m very motivated. I have a lot that I want to accomplish still. I want to take my time. I felt a little bit rushed last time trying to be back and ready for Sochi.”
Vonn, who had surgery almost two weeks ago, said the operation was less complicated than her surgery after blowing out her right knee at the World Championships last February.
No MCL work had to be done this time, but the ACL had to be reconstructed again and there was significant meniscus damage.
“I feel OK,” Vonn said with her adopted dog, Leo, draped over her lap. “I guess I’ve been through this now once before. So I kind of know the drill, unfortunately.”
What motivates Vonn? What does she still have to accomplish?
She previously made her goals clear in the four years between Sochi and Pyeongchang — to break records. She’s especially targeting success at next year’s World Championships near her hometown in Vail and Beaver Creek, Colo.
Vonn has 59 career World Cup wins. She is second all-time among women behind Austrian Annemarie Moser-Proell, who had 62, and has long been thought to eventually break it, even with her major knee injuries.
The long-term goal is the men’s record held by Swedish legend Ingemar Stenmark, who won 86 races.
“I’ve already been thinking about that [men’s record],” she said in a December Q&A published by Red Bulletin.
Vonn averaged 10 victories per season from 2009 through 2012. If she gets back on that pace and stays healthy, she would need to ski well into the 2016-17 World Cup season to pass Stenmark around age 32.
“Records are the only thing that remain of an athlete, the only thing that people will remember,” Vonn told Red Bulletin. “If I want to ensure that people don’t forget me, I can only stop once I’ve set the bar as high as possible for anyone coming after me. That means that as long as I can keep winning I’ll keep skiing. Essentially it’s about what I leave behind, and that means statistics, records.”
She will be 33 years old when the Olympics come to Pyeongchang, South Korea. If she competes there and wins a medal, she will be the oldest women’s Olympic Alpine skiing medalist of all time.
Vonn’s role for Sochi with NBC, which she called a new challenge, will include reporting live from Studio 1A in New York City for “TODAY” in the days leading up to the Opening Ceremony.
She will also cover how Olympians prepare physically and mentality for the Olympics as well as share her favorite memories.
“It’s going to be so hard,” Vonn said of watching the Olympics rather than competing for the first time since 1998. “It’s already hard enough. You guys run commercials about Sochi every two minutes, and it’s killing me. … It’s going to be really, really hard to watch the Alpine events.”