lindsey vonn

Lindsey Vonn makes first trip to Kitzbuehel, still feeling some sadness of retirement

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Lindsey Vonn is back on the Alpine skiing World Cup tour this weekend, but not as a racer.

Vonn, who retired last year, is a spectator (and course inspector) at the famed Hahnenkamm in Kitzbuehel, Austria, home to the biggest annual men’s race in the sport (full TV, live stream schedule here).

It’s her first time watching competition in person since a career’s worth of injuries forced her to retire last winter, four wins shy of Ingemar Stenmark‘s World Cup record total of 86.

“I feel like skiing is like a bad break-up, so I need to keep some distance and some space,” she said, according to sponsor Red Bull. “And I’m slowly getting back into watching it. It’s hard, because every time I watch it, it reminds me of what I’m missing. I find it easier to watch the men’s races obviously than the women’s, but of course I’m always cheering for my teammates and watching girls coming back from injury who’ve had a hard time.

“I kind of need some space still. But, as time goes on, I’ll be able to be more involved and it will be less painful for me, and I can kind of start to build a new relationship with ski racing.”

Vonn was a special guest at the podium presentation of Friday’s super-G won by Norwegian Kjetil Jansrud, who like Vonn came back from major knee injuries to return to an Olympic podium.

Vonn long harbored ambitions of racing against men, but it never came to fruition, at least in part due to the International Ski Federation never signing off. In 2012, she was quoted saying she wanted to race at Kitzbuehel, the most challenging track on the men’s circuit.

“Before I was injured, I really wish I would have at least got a chance to ski down it,” she said this week. “I wouldn’t even mind if I had raced, but it would have been cool for me to one time go down it with a race suit on and see what it’s like. Being here as a spectator, I’m so jealous of the men.”

While Vonn keeps busy in retirement, including wedding planning with fiance P.K. Subban, emotional pain remains from being off the ski circuit.

“It’s not really about letting go as much as just not being able to do what I love anymore,” she said. “That’s like a bad break-up where I just miss it, and wish I could still do it, but physically I wasn’t able to, and it’s a hard reality to accept. No matter how many business deals I make or companies I start, it’s never going to replace the adrenaline and the speed and the thrill of ski racing.

“It’s something I have to learn to live with ,and I just thought it would be a little easier than it was, but when you wake up and your world’s totally different and the reality sinks in, it just makes you sad sometimes.”

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Ten memorable Winter Olympic medal moments from 2010s

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NBCSports.com looks back at the 2010s this week. Here are 10 Winter Olympic medal moments that defined the decade …

Vancouver 2010: Lindsey Vonn’s downhill title, finish-area scream
Everything was lining up for the U.S.’ biggest ski star going into what was being billed as the “Vonncouver Olympics.” Lindsey Vonn was the two-time reigning World Cup overall champion, the reigning world championships gold medalist in the downhill and super-G and winner of five of the six World Cup downhills that season. Then came a setback, a bruised shin in slalom training 10 days before the Games that caused “excruciating” pain when putting on a ski boot. She lucked out as weather pushed the start of competition back three days. Vonn got her downhill gold, becoming the first U.S. woman to win the event. “I’ve given up everything for this,” she said on NBC.

Vancouver 2010: Shaun White lands Double McTwist 1260 for repeat gold
Having already clinched a repeat Olympic title, White could have used his second run in the final as a victory lap and simply slid down Cypress Mountain. Instead, he reached into his bag of tricks for what he called the Tomahawk, named after a 30-ounce T-bone steak he had recently devoured. White threw down the Double McTwist 1260 at the last Olympics he would be known as the Flying Tomato with flowing red locks.

Vancouver 2010: Apolo Ohno becomes most decorated U.S. Winter Olympian
With three medals at his third Olympics, Ohno broke Bonnie Blair‘s U.S. record for career Winter Olympic medals. The short track speed skater finished with eight total, tacking on a silver and two bronze medals in Vancouver, not far from his Seattle roots. An overweight Ohno had failed to make the 1998 Olympic team when favored at age 15. In 2002, he earned gold after a South Korean disqualification, making him an enemy of the world’s top short track nation. In 2006, he crossed the 500m finish line first in what he called the “perfect race.” After winning “Dancing with the Stars,” Ohno rededicated for one last Olympic push and skated competitively for the last time in Vancouver.

Vancouver 2010: Sidney Crosby’s golden goal
The very last gold medal of the Vancouver Games was the most vital for the host nation. In a U.S.-Canada men’s hockey final, American Zach Parise tied the game with 25 seconds left. Then in overtime, Crosby beat Ryan Miller to set off celebrations nationwide, where Canadians were filling bars and streets to watch the Sunday afternoon contest.

Sochi 2014: Sage Kotsenburg wins slopestyle’s Olympic debut
The first gold medalist of the Sochi Games was truly a surprise. Kotsenburg had gone nine years between slopestyle wins when he won the last U.S. Olympic qualifier that January. But “Second-Run Sage” unleashed a stylish first run in the Olympic final, landing a cab double cork 1260 with a Kotsenburg-invented Holy Crail grab and a back 1620 Japan Air, trying the latter trick for the first time in his life. He became a media hit, eating a bacon gold medal given to him by Conan O’Brien and listening to President Obama call him “sick and chill” at the White House.

Sochi 2014: Meryl Davis, Charlie White win first U.S. ice dance gold
When Davis and White began skating together in 1997 at ages 9 and 10, they barely spoke to each other the first two years because she was so shy. But from 2009 on, they captured six straight national titles, two world titles and an Olympic medal of every color. None bigger than gold in Sochi in a discipline where the U.S. used to be so weak that reporters took meal breaks at the national championships rather than watch the performances. It would be their final competition.

Sochi 2014: Mikaela Shiffrin becomes youngest slalom gold medalist
Despite a mid-second-run bobble, Shiffrin delivered on pre-Games hype by winning the slalom at age 18. What followed hours later would prove noteworthy for the rest of the decade: In Shiffrin’s late-night press conference, she blurted out that she dreamed of winning five gold medals in 2018. While that did not come to fruition, Shiffrin has gone on to win World Cup races in every discipline, plus Olympic or world titles in giant slalom and super-G. She will likely break the career World Cup wins record early in the next decade.

PyeongChang 2018: Chloe Kim’s back-to-back 1080s for gold
The 17-year-old phenom wasn’t thinking so much about flips and twists before her halfpipe runs, but ice cream and churros, as she tweeted during the competition. Before the celebratory desserts, Kim landed her signature combination — back-to-back 1080s, which no other woman has done. That was plenty enough for a rider who posted the two top scores in qualifying and the two top scores in the final. Then David Chang made her some churro ice cream sandwiches.

PyeongChang 2018: U.S. women’s hockey team edges Canada in shootout
Didn’t seem anything could top the Sochi Olympic final, where Canada tied it in the final minute (after a U.S. empty-net attempt clanged off the post) and won in overtime. Then came the shootout in South Korea. Twins Monique Lamoureux-Morando and Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson starred, three months after it looked like they could be cut from the team. The latter scored the winner on a deke she named, “Oops, I did it again,” after the Britney Spears song. The U.S. earned its first hockey gold medals since the 1998 team in the Olympic debut of women’s hockey.

PyeongChang 2018: Marit Bjoergen ends career with 15 medals, most decorated Winter Olympian
The last medal awarded at an Olympics this decade went to arguably the greatest Olympian of the decade. The Norwegian cross-country skier (and mother) broke countryman Ole Einar Bjoerndalen‘s career Winter Olympic medals record in PyeongChang, capped by taking the grueling 30km freestyle by 109 seconds, the largest margin for any Olympic cross-country race in 38 years. It would be Bjoergen’s last career race.

Honorable Mention: Vancouver 2010: U.S. four-man bobsled, Yuna Kim, Evan Lysacek. Sochi 2014: Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, Russian team figure skating, Noelle Pikus-Pace. PyeongChang 2018: U.S. men’s curling. Ester LedeckaJessie Diggins/Kikkan Randall.

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BEST OF 2010s: Summer Olympians | Winter Olympians | Teams
MOMENTS: Summer Olympics | Winter Olympics | Paralympics | Viral

Shaun White, Mikaela Shiffrin among dominant Winter Olympians of 2010s

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NBCSports.com looks back at the 2010s decade this week. Here are 10 Winter Olympic athletes who dominated the last 10 years …

Marit Bjørgen, Norway
Cross-Country Skiing
Eight Olympic gold medals in the 2010s
Broke career Winter Olympic medals record

A strong argument can be made that Bjørgen was the greatest Olympian of the 2010s — Summer or Winter. Her medal total for the decade — eight golds, 13 overall — would alone tie the record for most career Winter Olympic medals. She came back from childbirth to earn five medals, two golds, at the PyeongChang Olympics before retiring. That included winning the Games-closing 30km freestyle by a whopping 109 seconds, the greatest margin for any Olympic cross-country race since 1980.

Natalie Geisenberger, Germany
Luge
Six Olympic or world singles titles between 2013-19
Won the last seven World Cup season titles

Geisenberger, a skiing-to-sliding convert, won the Sochi Olympic title by 1.139 seconds, the largest margin in any Olympic luge event since 1964. In a stretch from 2012-15, she won 23 of her 29 Olympic, World Cup and world championships starts. Her PyeongChang defense was also impressive, winning by a margin greater than the one that separated second place from sixth.

Yuzuru Hanyu, Japan
Figure Skating
2014, 2018 Olympic champion
First skater to score 100 points in a short program, 200 in a free skate, 300 overall

Hanyu, then 14, was 12th at the 2009 World Junior Championships won by Adam Rippon. The next season, he was the world junior champion, setting the tone for a quadrennium in which he would rise to become the second teen to win the Olympic men’s singles title. From there, Hanyu combined jumping and artistry like no other skater, winning two world titles, another Olympic title and, the last five years, never finishing worse than second in a competition.

Marcel Hirscher, Austria
Alpine Skiing
Seven combined individual Olympic or world titles in the 2010s
Eight straight World Cup overall titles

The defining male skier of the decade. Hirscher may not have enjoyed Olympic success until PyeongChang (winning the super combined and giant slalom), but he captured an arguably more coveted crown every year from 2012 through 2019 — World Cup overall champion. Nobody else in history bagged more than six World Cup overalls. His 66 World Cup victories in the 2010s are a record for a single decade.

Sven Kramer, Netherlands
Speed Skating
Olympic 5000m champion in 2010, 2014, 2018
Six World Allround titles in the 2010s

You knew Kramer was something special at the start of the decade. At Vancouver 2010, Shani Davis, who preceded the Dutchman as the world’s best skater, called him “the Big Dog” before being paired together in what would be Kramer’s first Olympic gold-medal race. In addition to Olympic titles, he went undefeated at the historic world allround championships from 2007-17 and unbeaten at 5000m on the top international level for nearly six years from 2012-18.

Mikaela Shiffrin, United States
Alpine Skiing
Seven combined individual Olympic or world titles in the 2010s
Four straight World Cup overall titles

In slalom alone, Shiffrin won about 60 percent of her World Cup starts this decade. She became the youngest Olympic slalom gold medalist in Sochi (18 years old), then began branching out. By the end of last season, Shiffrin also earned Olympic or world titles in giant slalom and super-G, World Cup wins in every discipline and a single-season record 17 World Cup victories.

Tessa Virtue/Scott Moir, Canada
Figure Skating
2010, 2018 Olympic ice dance champions
Five Olympic medals a record for figure skaters

The only figure skaters to earn medals at every Olympics this decade. Virtue and Moir delivered under home-ice pressure at Vancouver 2010. They were defeated by training partners Meryl Davis and Charlie White in 2014, then returned from a two-year break to shatter scoring records and earn two more gold medals in PyeongChang (dance and team). They finished first or second in all of their ice dance competitions in the decade.

Lindsey Vonn, United States
Alpine Skiing
2010 Olympic downhill champion
Overcame major crashes, surgeries to break female World Cup wins record

Beyond the medals and victories, Vonn was a symbol of determination in the 2010s. From the very start. She competed at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics with a severely bruised shin that caused “excruciating” pain. Over the decade, she would amass so many injuries that an annually updated OlympicTalk post labeled a “brief synopsis” of them totaled more than 800 words. Vonn missed the Sochi Olympics after blowing out her right knee in a February 2013 World Championships crash, and re-injuring the knee that November and December in a rushed comeback. She returned from a broken ankle, fractured left knee, broken right arm and twisted back to reach the PyeongChang Olympics, where she earned a hard-fought downhill bronze. She retired last season, four wins shy of Ingemar Stenmark‘s World Cup record, after another crash and knee injury.

Shaun White, United States
Snowboarding
2010, 2018 Olympic halfpipe champion
Four X Games halfpipe titles in the 2010s

White was the sport’s dominant figure at the start of the decade. He then rallied from a mid-2010s drop-off (fourth at the Sochi Olympics) to return to the top of the podium in PyeongChang. He defeated riders nearly a decade younger while attempting (and landing) back-to-back double cork 1440s at a contest for the first time. White is now the youngest and oldest male Olympic halfpipe champion, doing so in his teens, 20s and 30s.

Ireen Wuest, Netherlands
Speed Skating
Individual Olympic titles in 2010, 2014 and 2018
Five-time World allround champion

Wuest earned Olympic titles in three different events this decade, and medals in five of the six Olympic speed skating disciplines. She also finished in the top three at every world allround championships from 2010-18. Wuest, already with 11 medals, has an outside chance of reaching Bjørgen’s career Winter Olympic medals record (15) at Beijing 2022.

Honorable Mention: Dario Cologna (Switzerland, Cross-Country Skiing), Kaillie Humphries (Canada, Bobsled), Martin Fourcade (France, Biathlon) and Mikaël Kingsbury (Canada, Freestyle Skiing).

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BEST OF 2010s: Summer Olympians | Winter Olympians | Teams
MOMENTS: Summer Olympics | Winter Olympics | Paralympics | Viral