Excerpt: Lindsey Vonn details struggles with weight in new book

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Lindsey Vonn is synonymous with fitness, given her appearances on the covers of magazines including Health, Fitness and Shape. But that was not always the case.

Vonn struggled with her diet and gained 25 pounds in the summer after competing as a 17-year-old at the 2002 Winter Olympics.

As she got older, she learned “all the exercise in the world can’t derail the effects of unhealthy eating.” By the 2010 Winter Games, when she won her first two Olympic medals, she was eating eggs and oatmeal for breakfast instead of bagels and pancakes.

Vonn reveals what inspired her to change her diet in the following excerpt from her new health and lifestyle book, “Strong Is the New Beautiful,” which will be available beginning tomorrow:

A few years after I joined the ski team, I moved to an apartment in Park City with three of my teammates, all guys. You might expect that in a house full of Olympic-level athletes, our kitchen would look like something from the pages of a cookbook on healthy living, but nothing could have been further from the truth. Instead, the guys stocked the kitchen with doughnuts, pasta, pizza, soda, candy, and store-bought cakes. They ate sugary cereal for breakfast, made white-bread sandwiches for lunch, and polished off pints of ice cream at night. Hardly any of us cooked, except to boil water for spaghetti and microwave jarred meat sauce to complete the meal.

We weren’t eating this way because we were lazy, trying to be lazy, or simply unschooled in nutritional trends. Quite the opposite; we thought we were following the best diet that we could at the time to build muscle, fortify our bodies for long hours of grueling training, and improve our overall performance as skiers. Carbo-loading was a popular approach for many elite athletes, especially skiers, who require a greater degree of muscle mass to train and race.

But carbo-loading never made me feel strong, and it certainly didn’t make me add muscle or lose the fat I wanted. Instead, I felt weak and tired, my face grew puffier and puffier, and whenever I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, I thought that I looked less toned, even though I was working out for hours every day. 

It took me years to figure out a way to eat that would help me look and feel good. Lindsey Vonn BookAs an elite athlete, I’m always looking for the best new way to get that extra edge—the one little push that will help lift me from world-class athlete to top of the world. So for the past fifteen years, I’ve tried different diets, trends, and fads in the effort to make my body as strong and lean as physically possible. A handful have offered some benefits, but none made the significant, sustainable changes to my body that I hope for—until I found the one approach that has nothing to do with dieting or fads and everything to do with science and the foods that have helped people get strong and lean for centuries.

When I was growing up in Minnesota, my parents both worked full time, and like most families in Middle America, we ended up eating a lot of processed foods: sugary cereal, ready-to-eat dinners, Hamburger Helper, and grilled cheeses with canned soup, supplemented by a few great meals my father would make on the weekends. But we rarely ate any veggies, and when we had to, I secretly slipped them under the table to our dog, Thunder. When I went away to ski camps, I’d often just have a pint of ice cream and call it a meal. 

I didn’t give too much thought to what I ate when I was young, especially since my habit of eating ice cream for dinner didn’t seem to be impeding my career as a junior skier. But after the 2002 Olympics, when I was seventeen, I suddenly gained twenty-five pounds in one summer. My metabolism had changed, even though I was still training several hours each day. I was both surprised and disheartened, but it was one of the first of what would be many valuable lessons I had to learn on how to get strong: All the exercise in the world can’t derail the effects of unhealthy eating.

Shortly after the Olympics, while living with my pasta-loving teammates in Park City, I began a high-carb diet, eating foods like bagels and pancakes for breakfast, starchy energy bars and sandwiches for lunch, and, on some nights, an entire box of spaghetti for dinner.

It wasn’t until I was in my twenties and started going to summer camps at the Olympic Training Center (OTC) in Chula Vista that I slowly began to discover the power of unprocessed foods. The summer camps attracted Olympic-caliber athletes from all across the country in a range of different disciplines—not just winter sports, but track and field, rowing, soccer, and triathlon. When I walked into the cafeteria for lunch the first day, I realized that I had a rare and amazing opportunity to actually see firsthand what some of the strongest, leanest, and fittest people in the country ate on a regular basis.

So I watched as if I were a researcher in an observational study—and I learned. Many triathletes and track-and-field runners weren’t lining up with me for pancakes or pasta, but were ordering eggs or oatmeal in the morning, making their own salads at lunch, and going for grilled meat and vegetables at night. 

Seeing how these athletes ate and listening to them talk about how food made them feel—light, energized, and aerodynamic—I resolved to start experimenting. I began by eating eggs and oatmeal for breakfast—two dishes not part of my regular routine—and swapping out some pasta and pizza for chicken and steak. I also started trying to eat more vegetables, which I had previously consumed only when asked (and usually then only if they were doused in butter or garlic). Without Thunder under the table, I was surprised to learn that I actually liked the taste of some.

Almost immediately, I began to see what my runner and triathlete friends had been talking about: I felt lighter, peppier, more focused—as if I could go longer and harder in workouts. The puffiness in my face began to ease, my clothes started to fit a bit better, and I thought that I might be looking more toned when I watched myself doing squats and lunges in the gym mirror.

From STRONG IS THE NEW BEAUTIFUL by Lindsey Vonn. Copyright (c) 2016 by Lindsey Vonn. Dey Street, an imprint of William Morrow Publishers. Reprinted by permission.

Germany opens bobsled worlds with double gold; Kaillie Humphries gets silver

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Germans Laura Nolte and Johannes Lochner dethroned the reigning Olympic and world champions to open the world bobsled championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland, this weekend.

Nolte, the Olympic two-woman champion driver, won the four-run monobob by four tenths of a second over American Kaillie Humphries, who won the first world title in the event in 2021 and the first Olympic title in the event in 2022. Another German, Lisa Buckwitz, took bronze.

In the two-man, Lochner became the first driver to beat countryman Francesco Friedrich in an Olympic or world championships event since 2016, ending Friedrich’s record 12-event streak at global championships between two-man and four-man.

Friedrich, defeated by 49 hundredths, saw his streak of seven consecutive world two-man titles also snapped.

Lochner, 32, won his first outright global title after seven Olympic or world silvers, plus a shared four-man gold with Friedrich in 2017.

Swiss Michael Vogt drove to bronze, one hundredth behind Friedrich. Geoff Gadbois and Martin Christofferson filled the top American sled in 18th.

Americans Steven Holcomb and Steven Langton were the last non-Germans to win a world two-man title in 2012.

Bobsled worlds finish next weekend with the two-woman and four-man events.

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Novak Djokovic wins 10th Australian Open, ties Rafael Nadal for most men’s Slam titles

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Novak Djokovic climbed into the Rod Laver Arena stands to celebrate his 10th Australian Open championship and record-tying 22nd Grand Slam title Sunday and, after jumping and pumping his fists with his team, he collapsed onto his back, crying.

When he returned to the playing surface, Djokovic sat on his sideline bench, buried his face in a white towel and sobbed some more.

This trip to Australia was far more successful than that of a year ago, when he was deported from the country because he was not vaccinated against COVID-19. And Djokovic accomplished all he could have possibly wanted in his return: He resumed his winning ways at Melbourne Park and made it back to the top of tennis, declaring: “This probably is the, I would say, biggest victory of my life.”

Only briefly challenged in the final, Djokovic was simply better at the most crucial moments and beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5). As a bonus, Djokovic will vault from No. 5 to No. 1 in the ATP rankings, a spot he already has held for more weeks than any other man.

“I want to say this has been one of the most challenging tournaments I’ve ever played in my life, considering the circumstances. Not playing last year; coming back this year,” Djokovic said, wearing a zip-up white jacket with a “22” on his chest. “And I want to thank all the people that made me feel welcome, made me feel comfortable, to be in Melbourne, to be in Australia.”

The 35-year-old from Serbia stretched his unbeaten streak in Melbourne to 28 matches, the longest run there in the Open era, which dates to 1968. He adds trophy No. 10 to the seven from Wimbledon, three from the U.S. Open — where he also was absent last year because of no coronavirus shots — and two from the French Open, to match rival Rafael Nadal for the most by a man.

Only two women — Margaret Court, with 24, and Serena Williams, with 23 — are ahead of him.

This was also the 93rd ATP tour-level title for Djokovic, breaking a tie with Nadal for the fourth-most.

“I would like to thank you for pushing our sport so far,” Tsitsipas told Djokovic.

Djokovic was participating in his 33rd major final, Tsitsipas in his second — and the 24-year-old from Greece also lost the other, at the 2021 French Open, to Djokovic.

On a cool evening under a cloud-filled sky, and with a soundtrack of chants from supporters of both men prompting repeated pleas for quiet from the chair umpire, Djokovic was superior throughout, especially so in the two tiebreakers.

He took a 4-1 lead in the first, then reeled off the last three points. He led 5-0 in the closing tiebreaker and, when it finished, he pointed to his temple before screaming, a prelude to all of the tears.

“Very emotional for us. Very emotional for him,” said Djokovic’s coach, Goran Ivanisevic. “It’s a great achievement. It was a really tough three weeks for him. He managed to overcome everything.”

Perhaps surprisingly, Tsitsipas was willing to engage in the kind of leg-wearying, lung-searing back-and-forths upon which Djokovic has built his superlative career. How did that work out? Of points lasting at least five strokes, Djokovic won 43, Tsitsipas 30.

Then again, on those rare occasions that Tsitsipas did charge the net, Djokovic often conjured up a passing shot that was too tough to handle.

It’s not as though Tsitsipas played all that poorly, other than a rash of early miscues that seemed to be more a product of tension than anything.

It’s that Djokovic was too unyielding. Too accurate with his strokes, making merely 22 unforced errors, 20 fewer than his foe. Too speedy and flexible chasing shots (other than on one second-set point, when, running to his left, Djokovic took a tumble).

“I did everything possible,” said Tsitsipas, who also would have moved to No. 1 with a victory, replacing Carlos Alcaraz, who sat out the Australian Open with a leg injury.

Perhaps. Yet Djokovic pushes and pushes and pushes some more, until it’s the opponent who is something less than perfect on one swing, either missing or providing an opening to pounce.

That’s what happened when Tsitsipas held his first break point — which was also a set point — while ahead 5-4 in the second and Djokovic serving at 30-40. Might this be a fulcrum? Might Djokovic relent? Might Tsitsipas surge?

Uh, no.

A 15-stroke point concluded with Djokovic smacking a cross-court forehand winner that felt like a statement. Two misses by Tsitsipas followed: A backhand long, a forehand wide. Those felt like capitulation. Even when Tsitsipas actually did break in the third, Djokovic broke right back.

There has been more than forehands and backhands on Djokovic’s mind over the past two weeks.

There was the not-so-small matter of last year’s legal saga — he has alternately acknowledged the whole thing served as a form of motivation but also said the other day, “I’m over it” — and curiosity about the sort of reception he would get when allowed to enter Australia because pandemic restrictions were eased.

He heard a ton of loud support, but also dealt with some persistent heckling while competing, including applause after faults Sunday.

There was the sore left hamstring that has been heavily bandaged for every match — until the final, that is, when only a single piece of beige athletic tape was visible.

And then there was the complicated matter of his father, Srdjan, being filmed with a group of people with Russian flags — one with an image of Vladimir Putin — after Djokovic’s quarterfinal. The tournament banned spectators from carrying flags of Russia or Belarus, saying they would cause disruption because of the ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Djokovic and his father said it was a misunderstanding; Srdjan thought he was with Serbian fans.

Still, Srdjan Djokovic did not attend his son’s semifinal or the final.

No matter any of it, Djokovic excelled as he so often has.

“He is the greatest,” Tsitsipas said, “that has ever held a tennis racket.”

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