Lindsey Vonn Opens Up About Chronicling Her Last Run on Slopes for 'The Final Season'
Lindsey Vonn stood atop the proverbial mountain of skiing during her more than two decades on the slopes. Attaining Olympic gold, four World Cup titles and the second most victories on the World Cup circuit at 82 are just some of the accolades the trailblazing athlete achieved.
However, success came at a price as viewers of the upcoming HBO Sports documentary Lindsey Vonn: The Final Season will see. Cameras followed the 34-year-old embarking on one last run before retiring after a valiant showing in February's Alpine World Championships in Are, Sweden. For Vonn, the process wasn’t easy.
“I think as I’m finishing my career there was a lot about me that I haven’t shared and wanted to be part of my legacy,” she said on motivations to sign on for the project.
“I think it was a good final chapter. A good way to share my family’s sacrifice, and unfortunately, all the injuries I’ve been through. It was important for me to be authentic and myself and share my story in a real way. I’m really proud of what HBO and TGR (Teton Gravity Research) were able to put together.”
In between business trips from one coast to the other, here Vonn reflects on her journey ahead of the film's television premiere.
You've had camera crews follow you around before. Did this experience feel different knowing what was going on in your professional life?
Lindsey Vonn: Don’t get me wrong. There were definitely times where it was difficult. We had to get mic'd every morning up on the hill. I think my coaches were pretty annoyed by it, but we all knew it was important to me and my legacy. I think everyone realized the magnitude of it.
What really helped in those really emotional moments my friend Claire [Abbe Brown] was the one filming. I didn’t even realize she was filming to be honest. A lot of it was shot on her phone and in the hospital when she happened to be there with me from the mountain. A lot of those moments were authentically captured, and I didn’t feel intruded upon where I felt all these cameras around me all the time, which was nice.I think they did a really good close-up view of how I was feeling and the raw emotions that were there.
The documentary does a good job demonstrating what an amazing support system you had. There are parts on the hill where you contemplate whether you want to continue, and your team is there to lift you up. How was it recounting these instances on screen?
It’s emotional for me. I watched the film twice during the editing process and couldn’t watch anymore. It was too triggering, too raw. It was incredibly difficult. I felt like my team had helped me out so much and were there for me and relied on me. And if I retired, I would basically be quitting on them. There was a lot of guilt that I felt because of that. It was a really hard decision to make. I wanted to ski well for myself, but I also wanted to ski well for my team. They had just as much invested as I did. So, that decision-making process was very emotional. It is still difficult to watch.
On the red carpet of the premiere, it was clear you were really touched by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson being there for you. He's someone you have collaborated with as his first ambassador for Under Armour Brand, Project Rock. What have you gotten out of working with him?
The Rock is a special human. He is humble, kind, and the most successful, hardest-working person in Hollywood. If you just met him, you’d never know he was probably the most successful person on earth at this point. What struck me about him coming to my premiere is I’d invited a lot of people. People I’ve called my friends, but for how busy he was, he showed up for me. That was incredibly meaningful for me.
He has been an inspiration to me. He works so hard and is always so humble. That is how I want to conduct myself and wanted to conduct myself throughout my career and now as a businesswoman. Put your nose down, work hard and be a humble and kind person. It is an honor to be in business with him, to work with him, to watch him and learn from him.
This film will be a great accompaniment to your book coming out next year. What can readers expect from this memoir?
Basically, my book is the HBO documentary on steroids. It goes a lot more in-depth on the adversities I faced and different moments in my life that changed me and made me a stronger person. That’s why I titled it Rise, because I try to rise above my adversities and things that have come my way and try to knock me down.
I hope it’s an inspiring book. I want people to believe in themselves and believe in their ability and believe in who they are. It hasn’t always been that way for me. I didn’t always believe in myself, especially on the slopes. I’ve struggled a lot with being confident. Through the course of the book there are things that changed my life and made me a stronger person. Hopefully, that is meaningful for others.
You contributed to what we’re seeing now with women athletes coming to the forefront. What do you think the future of skiing will be now as you see it from the outside looking in?
There have been a lot of people who have retired: Aksel [Lund Svindal], Marcel [Hirscher], Felix [Neureuther]. But I think ski racing is only becoming more popular, especially with the success of Mikaela Shiffrin. There is a lot to look forward to in the sport. I won’t be watching it as close that I would like. It’s a little too raw open of a wound for me right now. I still have my teammates who are competing; Jackie Wiles, who is a Vonn Foundation Scholarship winner. I want to support them as much as I can but also making sure I don’t get too emotionally wrapped up in it because it’s a slippery slope.
You mention work with your foundation. Setting new goals outside of skiing, what has that transition been like for you? How else are you keeping busy?
What I’ve taken from skiing into the business world is my work ethic and trying to educate myself and do the research and the leg work and be as informed as possible. It’s a lot different than ski racing, but I’m starting my beauty line that is a whole new situation. Chase Ink is helping me build that business. I’m also executive producing a movie with Robert Redford and Pete Berg. I have some things I can’t tell you about that are coming up. I’m really busy, and I like being busy because I like working hard. I think my biggest thing is making sure to find balance because I have a tendency to always say yes and want to do everything.
What do you want people to walk away with after watching the documentary? Those who were fans and maybe others who can just relate your journey.
Even one of my good friends who I’ve known since I was 8 years old, she was at the premiere. She said, “I didn’t know how much pain you were in.” I guess that’s my fault because I never really talk to my friends that much about some of the difficulties I faced and the realities of the surgeries and how much pain I was in at those stages of my life.
What I hope people get out of it is no matter how difficult the road may seem, you can always pick yourself back up. You can always fight through it. You have to believe in yourself. I’ve had a lot of adversities in my life and picked myself back up. Even though I retired, I didn’t quit. I went as long as I could. There is that last line on one my Instagram posts where I talk about how kids need to believe in themselves and never give up. It is so true, and it speaks so much to my life. My story lives on after I retire.
Lindsey Vonn: The Final Season, Tuesday, November 26, 10/9c, HBO