Olympic Skier Lindsey Vonn Reflects on Being a Powerful, History-Making Athlete

The alpine skier was the first woman to ski the legendary Streif in Kitzbühel, Austria, and the first person to ever complete the course at night.
Lindsey Vonn.

Lindsey Vonn.

Lindsey Vonn is without a doubt one of the greatest alpine skiers of all time. She has 82 World Cup wins—four for overall champion—and three Olympic medals, and has made history not once but twice. Vonn was the first woman to ski the legendary Streif in Kitzbühel, Austria, and was also the first person to ever ski the course at night earlier this year.

The 38-year-old appeared in the SI Swimsuit magazine three separate years. She made her debut in Whistler, Canada, in 2010. In ’16, she was photographed in Petit St. Vincent and returned for a body painting feature with photographer Frederic Pinet for a body paint feature with artist Joanne Gair. In 2019, the same year she retired from skiing professionally, she made her most recent appearance in the magazine in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

The New York Times best-selling author doesn’t shy away from challenges and she doesn’t give up. After leaving the professional skiing world, she began to rise in the fashion and influencer world among her 2.2 million IG followers. She is a brand ambassador for Under Armour and Head Sportswear, and even designed a line of sunglasses and ski goggles with Yniq Eyewear.

Vonn served as an expert broadcaster for NBC Sports during the 2022 Olympic Games.

This Women’s History Month, she’s reflecting on what it means to be a barrier-breaking athlete.

Growing up, which female athletes did you look up to? 

“When I was growing up, ski racing wasn’t televised live. My dad used to purchase each season’s winning runs on VHS for me and that was the only way to watch women compete. Then when I was 9-years-old, I met Picabo Street and it was like this superhero had come to life. That moment had such an incredible impact on me and it’s what inspired my dream to become an Olympian. Billie Jean King was also a big inspiration to me as the first woman to compete against a man in tennis. I aspired to do something similar in ski racing, but my ambitions were never realized for political reasons. Even though I wasn’t permitted to race against the men, Billie Jean’s advice to me played a huge role in my goal and she motivated me to keep trying.”

Who are other female athletes you are currently inspired by?

“I love watching current female athletes like Serena [Williams], Simone Biles and Mikaela Shiffrin. They’re influencing the next generation in so many ways and I hope I have contributed to that as well.”

What strides can the sports industry and community take to better support and uplift female athletes? What progress have you already seen? 

“I believe there is still a lot of work to be done across all sports when it comes to uplifting female athletes and creating a more equitable experience to men. From equal pay to facilities, there are gaps that can be filled. However, I do see a big change and the needle is moving in the right direction. Sports can also be a conduit for progress in business for women, as we use sports as an example for what is possible.”

Where do you see women in sports five years from now?

“In five years, I hope to see women receiving fair and equally proportionate pay to men and more women elevated to assume leadership roles across the sports industry and on professional teams—not just female teams, but for both genders. I hope to see more women signing up for sports because their favorite female athletes and role models have empowered them to believe in themselves.”

Do you have any words of advice for young female athletes? 

“I wish I had realized my value earlier in life. During the course of my career, there were several men who served as mentors for me and helped me along the way. If I had leaned on them earlier, asked questions earlier, maybe I would have been able to move the needle even farther than I did with their support. I think it’s important, in sports and in life, to keep an open mind, keep learning and keep asking questions. We must push ourselves out of our comfort zones in order to progress and that is never easy.”

In what ways do female athletes open doors for women outside of sports?

“I think sports inspire people. They are a way for all genders to push the boundaries of what is possible. I also feel that moments in sports often serve as the first domino creating ripple effects that impact millions of people around the world. As Nelson Mandela once said, ‘Sport has the power to change the world. Sport has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where there was only despair.’”

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Ananya Panchal


Ananya Panchal is a NYC-based Lifestyle & Trending News writer at SI Swimsuit. Before joining the Swim team, the Boston University Alum worked for culture & entertainment beats at Bustle, The San Francisco Chronicle and the TODAY Show. When Ananya is not writing or doom-scrolling on social media, she can be found playing sudoku, rewatching One Tree Hill or trying new restaurants. She's also a coffee and chocolate (separately) enthusiast.