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Alpine Racer Lindsey Vonn: "There's Always Something Higher, So Why Would I Stop?"

On hitting a career-defining milestone:

“Right before the Olympics, in 2009, I joined the Rolex family. It was a huge honor. You know, when you’re with Rolex, that means you’re at the pinnacle, you’re the elite athlete. That was huge. Rolex has been a sponsor of the Junior Olympics [since] I was a kid. I’ve always had Rolex bibs, and it’s always been something that I’ve thought about—that when you get a Rolex sponsorship, that means that you have made it: You’re timeless, you’ve transcended sport, and you’re more of an icon than anything else.”

Jasmine Safaeian

On making comebacks:

“The 2006 Olympics was big for me because I crashed and I thought I broke my back. I went off a jump backwards and landed on my back, and [I was in] excruciating pain. I thought, there’s no way I’m coming out of this. I was helicoptered off the mountain, and they had me go through all the CAT scans and MRIs, and I was like, it’s over. I was hysterically crying. I had prepared myself for not being able to ski again. And then when I got the results back, I was like, I want to go back on the mountain right now. I want another chance.

“I almost escaped the hospital. I ran away in my hospital gown and socks, and they caught me before I got to the elevator. I was in Italy and no one spoke English. I didn’t have a phone, but I was like, I’m sure my mom’s here in the lobby. I need to get back up to the mountain. I was hobbling down the hallway and these old Italian women caught me and forced me back into my room. When my mom found her way up there, I was like, “We gotta go NOW, I gotta race.’ [Editor’s note: Vonn suffered bruises to her tailbone, and within two days of her hospitalization, she returned to the slopes and competed in four of her five events.]

“That [incident] changed my whole mindset of how much I appreciate what I do and understanding that it could be over at any minute. It gave me a different perspective on everything.”

On the importance of rest and recovery:

“Understanding what my body is telling me is important. It’s hard to keep everything feeling good when you’re putting it through so much stress day in and day out. But I know what I need: I know that I need a massage almost every single day. I have to ice my knee. I have to do the foam roll. I have to do hot baths. There are certain things I need to do to maintain it, and I do everything I need to do to take care of it, because without it, I can’t do my job. I have a very strong appreciation for what my body can do.”

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On paying it forward:

“I’ve found so much fulfillment in inspiring kids, meeting them and spending time with them. When I see a girl I’ve met five years ago and she’s telling me how much I inspired her and how she’s skiing or studying hard or whatever it is—that gives me so much joy. Even if you spend, like 30 seconds with a kid, she remembers it for the rest of her life, similar to what happened with me and Picabo Street. So I understand that [as role models] we can have a huge impact.”

On finding an escape on the mountain:

“I’ve just always felt that in my life, no matter what’s happening, I can be on the mountain and be happy and have a sense of self. It’s so peaceful, especially when you’re the first one up there and it’s quiet. I hope to ski [competitively] for another 2, 3, 4 years—we’ll see how my body holds up. But I will definitely be skiing forever.”

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