Best skiier of all time: a reprise

If you read my column, you are no stranger to the best skier in all of human history, Lindsey Vonn. I have been known to say things like the following:

From a numbers standpoint, Lindsey Vonn is absolutely the best skier of all time. For 16 winters, Vonn has been on the International Ski Federation (FIS) World Cup circuit as a member of the U.S. Ski Team. In those 16 seasons, Vonn has won four World Cup overall championships and earned a record eight World Cup season titles in the downhill event, five in the Super-G and three in the combined. In 2016 she won her 20th World Cup trophy —the prized crystal globe—which marked an all-time record among both men and women.

As of now, she has 81 World Cup wins and 135 World Cup podiums. She earned the gold medal in downhill and the bronze in the Super-G in the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. She has won seven World Championship medals: two gold, three silver and two bronze.

She also has the highest super ranking (a scoring system calculated from using points in three races: Olympics, World Championships and World Cups) of all-time out of both men and women. Taking all of this into account from a statistics standpoint, Vonn is the most successful skier of all time.

Vonn is not just impressive in her rankings: her skiing has revolutionized and progressed the sport of skiing. She is one of only six women to have won World Cup races in all five events—downhill, Giant Slalom (GS), Slalom, Super-G and Super-Combined (one run of either downhill or Super-G and one run of Slalom)—in alpine skiing.

Most competitive skiers are not contenders for all-around skiers, and they will just specialize in a few events. However, Vonn is not only good in the speed events like downhill and Super-G, but she also excels in the technical events like Slalom, GS and combined. This requires an unprecedented amount of talent and skill to maintain the stamina and agility required for technical events as well as the dexterity, aerodynamics and aggression needed in the speed events. She is one of the few skiers ever to be this dominant in a sport, especially for so long.

After a brutal crash in the 2013 World Championships in Schladming, Austria and another crash in training back in the states, Vonn’s chances at making her fourth Olympic Games were quickly narrowing. At that point in her career, many expected her to hang up her ski boots. But at just her second race back in December 2014, Vonn managed to win the World Cup at Lake Louise, and then proceeded to overtake Austrian record holder Annemarie Moser-Proell for the most World Cup wins ever in women’s skiing.

In November 2016, Vonn severely fractured her humerus bone in a training accident at Copper Mountain in Colorado. She returned to the World Cup scene in January 2017 after surgery, where she went on to win the downhill race in Garmisch, Germany—her second race back following the injury.

Vonn has proven herself not only in her peak form, but in coming back from injury as well. Few skiers have the mental fortitude to come back from those kinds of career-threatening injuries, and even fewer have the capability to come back and then start breaking records again like nothing happened.

But we have reached the end of Vonn’s long reign over the slopes. After an impossibly long career, Vonn’s last race took place this past week at the World Championships in Åre, Sweden after she announced her withdrawal from the World Cup circuit and subsequent retirement. She announced her retirement on account of a plethora of injuries that have been plaguing her battered body and mind for the entirety of her career.

On her victory lap, however, Vonn managed to snag the bronze medal in the World Championships downhill race—a course Vonn has notoriously struggled with. At the base, she was met with arguably her only rival—Ingemar Stenmark—who has won 86 World Cup titles whereas Vonn has only won a mere 82. However, this rivalry is easily debunked due to their natures: Stenmark competed only in Giant Slalom and Slalom, but Vonn competed and won races in all five categories of racing, collecting 43 downhill, 28 Super-G, four Giant Slalom, two Slalom and five Super Combined wins to total her remarkable 82 World Cup wins.

So yes, this article is a reprise of my original Lindsey Vonn article. But she deserves all the attention she can get for beating the odds and leaving the sport on a high note. We will all miss you so much, Lindsey, and you have been an absolute inspiration to everyone who has eyes. We will always hail you as the greatest skier of all time.


All my love,

Simone A. Levy