A letter to Lindsey Vonn: you are far from past your prime

Dear Lindsey,

There are so many articles circulating about your race in Cortina. Reporters are saying that it was likely your last run, that your injury-battered body just doesn’t move the way it used to, that your retirement may be a few months earlier than planned. That you may fall short of securing 5 more wins to break the all-time World Cup victories record.

This sucks. As a true fan, I wish I had more eloquent words, but there it is. Ending your career is tough; watching it fizzle as your body gives out is much worse.

Even though you aren’t giving up quite yet, you must be thinking about the loss of identity that will come when you put away your racing skis for good. You must feel worried about what’s next, finding a purpose and fulfilling your innate need for speed and competition. You must feel scared about how your body is aging beyond your control. You must feel lonely thinking about leaving your fans behind.

What is there to say in times like these? There are no right words, but saying nothing at all feels wrong. Your fans have followed you from your worst crashes to the tops of podiums; it’s only right we follow you through the bitter end, too.

I thought of you today while listening to a podcast on TED Radio Hour called “Approaching with Kindness”. In one of the interviews, a baseball player talked about the type of kindness he needed as an athlete but rarely received.

When he was throwing poorly, his coaches would stop the game and approach the mound before pulling him off the field and replacing him with another guy. Everyone would boo. When he got back in the dugout, his teammates felt embarrassed for him, and no one knew what to say. So no one said anything.

He said there was something he really needed during those hard times: some kind words. He didn’t want people to lie and say “you’re doing great!”; rather, he didn’t want to be avoided just because he wasn’t at his best.

He simply needed a friendly chat to remind him that even during tough times, he was more than just a baseball player. He was a human, and the world was much bigger than the baseball field.

So, in the spirit of easing your situation with a bit of kindness, here are some words that are kind, and more importantly true.

Your fans adore you as a skier, but we’re even more inspired by the work you put in off the slopes. You’ve taught us about grit, showed us the value of hard work, and exemplified resiliency. You’ve preached body positivity and sported stylish outfits. You’ve always been a good sport.

You’ve dominated on the slopes, and there’s no doubt you’ll dominate in whatever comes next. Change can be scary, but it’s also exciting. And you are far from past your prime.

Thank you for being Lindsey Vonn — a household name and inspiration to so many.

In this tough time, know this: your fans are still here, and we’re still rooting for you, no matter what comes next.

Your fan,