After suffering a horrific crash just 15 months before the upcoming Winter Games in Pyeongchang, Team USA star skier Lindsey Vonn refused to accept that her injuries might prevent her from competing in the 2018 Olympics.
So she immediately got to work on overcoming the brutal injuries, which required her to undergo intricate surgery to insert a plate and more than a dozen screws into the broken arm – all while trying to avoid permanent nerve damage.
But while Lindsey has overcome adversity once again in order to get back out on the slopes – where she is predicted to speed her way to a gold medal in just a matter of weeks – there is still one rather painful reminder of her injury that she cannot escape: the large scar that she was left with after surgery.
Skiing sensation: 33-year-old Lindsey Vonn in Italy as she took first place in the the Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup Women’s Downhill on January 20
Crash on a Colorado mountain: In November 2016 Lindsey had a ski crash during a training session and broke her arm
Her longtime sports physical therapist, Lindsay Winninger, said of the dramatic crash: ‘[Lindsey] looked up at me and asked “Buddy, you’re going to fix this, right? You’ve got this?”
‘I confidently said “yes” but at that point in time, I didn’t know if I could. That was hard from Day One.
‘We were putting in almost eight hours a day on that arm, to try and revive the nerve a little bit and get things done as fast as possible. That was a big one.’
Fast forward more than a year later and Lindsey can still be found gliding down the slopes at speeds at speeds that can top 75 mph.
However the scar from her accident, which took place in November 2016, is still clearly visible along her injured arm – and Lindsey admits that she spent many months after the crash trying to hide it up.
Eventually, however, she came to realize that the scar represented so much more than just the accident – it signified the hard work and determination that followed in order to get her back out on the slopes.
She told Shape Magazine: ‘I used to think the huge purple scar along the back of my right arm was hideous. But the harder I worked in rehab, the more I felt like it was a badge of strength.’
‘Now I embrace it and wear sleeveless dresses and tops because the scar is part of who I am. It’s made me stronger and I’m proud to show it off.’
Embracing her scar: She said she used to think the scar was hideous but now shows it off because it is a part of who she is
Delicate surgery: She would need to undergo surgery to insert a plate and more than a dozen screws into her broken right arm while trying to avoid nerve damage
But that’s not all she’s hoping to show off.
She wants to break Ingemar Stenmark’s career record for most World Cup wins, the most celebrated mark in ski racing. Lindsey is up to 79, the most for a woman, and only seven behind Ingemar, a Swede who competed in the 1970s and ’80s.
She already has four World Cup overall titles and seven world championships medals.
It’s that chase that prompted Lindsey to declare already that she has decided to return to the World Cup circuit next season.
She said: ‘I already put enough pressure on myself to reach that goal, anyway. I want to make sure I give myself a little more time, so I’m not stressed about it.’
Then there’s her ongoing pursuit of barrier-breaking competition against men, something Lindsey has spoken about pursuing for years.
She views it as something that could be as significant as Billie Jean King’s exhibition tennis match against Bobby Riggs in 1973.
‘I want to see what I’m capable of. It would be really great exposure for the sport,’ Vonn said.
Big plans: Lindsey pictured in Italy at the Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup said she would love the opportunity to compete with men
Still enjoying it: Lindsey said that ‘as long as I’m still enjoying it, I’m good. I’m set.’
‘My personal ambitions aside, I think you have to look at it from a broader perspective. What Billie Jean King did all those years ago made a huge and lasting impact. We have to continue to push the envelope and push women forward in sports,’ she said.
US Ski and Snowboard formally petitioned the International Ski Federation’s Alpine executive board in October on behalf of Lindsey, with a goal of being allowed to race against men sometime next season.
The proposal was put on hold but it’s expected to be considered in May.
‘Why not? We train with her. I’d fully be psyched to see her race against guys,’ said Lindsey’s Team USA teammate, Ted Ligety.
Lindsey is not deterred easily, which is why she never allowed any of those injuries to derail her career for good.
She said: ‘I love going fast. That’s why I haven’t stopped skiing. I’m 33. I’ve been injured quite a few times, but my passion for the sport has never changed since I started racing when I was eight years old.’
‘As long as I’m still enjoying it, and I don’t have to use too much duct tape to hold my body together, I’m good. I’m set.’