Last week, Lindsey Vonn, the reigning FIS Ski World Cup champion, returned to the circuit after a three week absence brought on by an intestinal illness. During the time off, Vonn also finalized her divorce and recharged her batteries. In this interview, conducted in Austria, Vonn opens up about reports of depression, her excitement at being back on the World Cup tour and her goals for the season.
How does it feel being back in the FIS Ski World Cup?
I'm really happy to be back; I was gone for a couple of weeks and I really missed the World Cup. I missed going fast, I missed the adrenaline and it was great to have the first race back in St. Anton, in Austria -- a place where I feel at home. The hill was definitely very challenging and it was taking me a little bit to get into the racing and get the nerves to go away but I'm really happy to be back on the World Cup.
Are you satisfied with the results?
Yes, I think my results were solid; it wasn't anything spectacular but I think it was a good place to start. Sixth place in the downhill was okay and then I did a little bit better in the Super G, it was fourth -- unfortunately one hundredth away from third place, so that was a little bit disappointing. But I think my skiing was good; it's solid [but] I'm still missing a little bit of that aggression that I normally have. So I think it's just going to take a little bit to get back in the swing of things but so far I think I'm on the right track.
Could you explain the reasons for your break?
I was hospitalized for an intestinal infection in November for a few days and struggled with that for around two weeks. And I just lost all of my strength, lost all of my endurance. When I raced in Lake Louise (in Canada) I felt pretty good but when I went over to Europe I just didn't have the stamina and I progressively got much weaker.
I just listened to my body -- it was telling me to take a break, so I did. I think it was the right decision, 100 percent. I took that time to really get strong, to work on my conditioning training and now I'm back. I feel fit again and I can actually ski the way I want to and ski safely. And that was the most important thing for me.
What did you do over the last few weeks?
I was just training in the gym. I took a break from skiing and just really focused on getting strong again. I did a lot of weight lifting, a lot of endurance biking and just trying to get into the shape I was before I got sick. So it was definitely tough and every day it got better, but it was really difficult to lose all the training that I had built up over the summer. I worked so hard to be in great shape at the start of the season and I felt like I lost pretty much everything -- so that was difficult for me to get over. But once I got past it and just started working on getting strong again it was definitely much better.
"I feel really good; I worked really hard on my strength training during my Christmas break and I feel like I'm pretty much back to where I was before I got sick."
There was an article in People Magazine about your depression. Why did the article appear in November?
Well, I gave the interview with People Magazine in the summer so it was kind of their decision [as to] when they wanted to publish it in their magazine. But it was definitely something that I felt like I needed to say for myself, personally, so that I can move on and start the next chapter in my life.
I'm divorced [now], and it's been a long process of finding myself and skiing for myself. It's a part of my life that I've never really shared with anyone. Now I feel like I've said my piece and I can close that chapter in my life and move forward. I think that article explained everything and at this point I want to move on and move forward and hopefully continue to win ski races.
How do you feel at the moment -- physically and mentally?
I feel really good; I worked really hard on my strength training during my Christmas break and I feel like I'm pretty much back to where I was before I got sick. When I skied in St. Anton I didn't feel like I was getting tired at the end of the course and I was happy and clear, mentally, so I'd say I'm in a really good place right now.
What are your goals for the future?
I'm really excited about next weekend. Cortina has always been a good place for me and it's a hill where I've had success in the past, so hopefully, I'll be ready to get on the podium and maybe win if I can. But I'm just taking it step by step. I'm trying to get the confidence back and trying to get back into the swing of racing. But there's also World Championships coming up so I'm looking forward to trying to ski my best again and really trying to push the limits like I did before.
Do you have special goals for the Championships?
Well, at the last World Championships in Garmisch I had a concussion and I wasn't able to ski very well; I only got second place in the Downhill and I think I was seventh in the Super G, so it wasn't a very great World Championships for me. Hopefully this time it will be a little bit better. I would love to try to get a medal in Downhill and Super G, hopefully gold in Val D'Isere. I had a good World Championships there and won the Downhill and Super G -- so I know I can do it. Hopefully the conditions will be good and hopefully I'll be a contender.