(Image Credit RedBull.com)
I no sooner came up with the idea for this post than the latest issue of Sports Illustrated arrived announcing Serena Williams as the Sportsperson of the Year.
Not since track and field star Mary Decker back in 1983 had a female athlete been so honored with the magazine’s award all by herself.
Well…my original post idea remains intact…suggesting alpine skier Lindsey Vonn may be the greatest female athlete ever.
Two weekends ago Vonn captured her 71st World Cup win of her career. She’s going for her fifth World Cup Overall title this season…currently second in points. Lindsey has won four races already this season. No female skier in history has won as many World Cup races and her sights are now squarely set on breaking Ingemar Stenmark’s all-time mark of 86 World Cup wins.
All this at the age of 31…after multiple, serious injuries…still the greatest skier in the sport…males included? Topic for discussion…
Attractive, personable and outgoing on the outside, she is obviously equal-part battle-ready, combative and competitive on the inside to have lasted so long – and been so successful – in what is often considered a young person’s sport.
She has a new book scheduled to come out next year titled, “Strong Is The New Beautiful.” One of her main efforts off the slopes has been convincing women of all ages their focus should be on feeling and being healthy through nutrition, exercise…and a focused view health and strength is what truly breeds self-confidence and beauty.
She also recently launched a non-profit foundation that helps girls empower themselves and realize their dreams whether sports-related or not.
Trying to document all her physical injuries and personal setbacks while becoming one of only six women to ever have won World Cup races in each of the five traditional disciplines of alpine skiing – Downhill, Super-G, Giant Slalom, Slalom and Super Combined – would be daunting indeed. Suffice to say alpine skiing is among the most dangerous things one can do and have it still be considered a “sport.”
In fact she was recently quoted as saying she wished more people would watch skiing live. “You can’t see on TV how fast we are going and how dangerous the sport is. I think if people understood how totally thrilling ski racing is they would like it better.”
I’ve been watching World Cup racing (sadly only on TV, never in person…) for many years and have never seen anything like the way Vonn attacks courses regardless of their set-up, the ever-changing mountain weather, the course conditions, etc. Lindsey consistently blocks out the pressure of already being the best of all-time and goes all out…every time out.
In the US alpine skiing is deep on the back-burner of public consciousness except for when the Olympics arrive every four years. There really is World Cup skiing each and every year in between those Olympics folks. I think Lindsey’s accomplishments are masked by the fact the US doesn’t celebrate this sport and its accomplishments like the rest of the globe.
By the way…World Cup ski racing currently can be found on Universal HD and – on occasion – NBC Sports Network.
That’s been a huge part of the problem convincing the masses Vonn should be at least considered among the best female athletes ever. We’re so bombarded with coverage of other sports – whose seasons never seem to end – and I don’t think skiing gets its due.
And to think how Lindsey’s historic resume has been hindered by injury. A horrible crash at the February 2013 World Championships left her with a torn ACL/MCL and a tibial plateau fracture. Fighting back from that she then crashed in November of the same year while in training. Vonn still attempted to continue on to reach her goal of representing the US in the 2014 Olympics just weeks away at that point…but after another big hit grudgingly called it a season. That’s an awful lot of lost win opportunities within that stretch of time alone…and there have been other injuries along the way since her World Cup debut in November of 2000 at the age of 16.
The native of Twin Cities, Minnesota has gotten her fair share of press from all those World Cup victories, winning the US a 2010 Olympic Downhill Gold, numerous World Championship medals, photo shoots, etc. but admittedly acquired almost as much notoriety recently for a now-ended romantic relationship with one of golf’s all-timers, Tiger Woods.
She’s no longer Woods’ girlfriend but be advised she’s still making headlines…returning to the slopes since late 2014 and just crushing it…continuing to rack up record-breaking results.
Danger is always right around the corner in this sport but we’re talking about a woman who has for years skied with braces and breaks alike. Regardless of how difficult this sport is to master and stay in one piece it looks like Lindsey will be done skiing when she’s ready to go, on her own terms, in her own time.
Her body of work is timeless…and yet still growing.
Serena Williams had a year for the ages. A record of 53-3 with Australian, French and Wimbledon titles all at the age of 34…in a sport also favored towards youth. The best female tennis player of all-time.
One can also absolutely make the case she is the greatest female athlete ever.
There is another athlete I would like to submit for consideration…excelling off-the-radar…obscured by icy clouds and snow-capped mountains.