Lindsey Vonn Makes History in Return to Downhill Ski Racing

When Lindsey Vonn left skiing four years ago she said she was "broken beyond repair." But the 38-year-old look like she could make another run after returning to downhill skiing by taking on the Streif in Kitzbühel, Austria. It was a one-night-only event for Vonn as it was a course she wanted to tackle. And in the process of her return, Vonn made history by becoming the first woman to ski the Streif. 

"Only when you ski the Streif are you a real downhiller," Vonn said in a statement. The Streif is the pinnacle of all downhills, the most difficult course in the world. Nobody believed I could do it. After all my injuries, to now get the once-in-a-lifetime chance to kick out of the starting gate here and fulfill my dream is incredible.

"I've always had respect for the men that raced down the Streif, but I have even more respect now because it's one thing to go down it and another thing to ski to win; and now I can fully understand what that means. It has given me greater perspective how truly amazing these men are."

Vonn spent five weeks preparing for the course. She wanted to race on the Streif with the men in a World Cup downhill but couldn't accomplish it before her retirement. However, Vonn is the first person of any gender to ski the Streif at night. "The greatest challenge of the whole thing was pushing out of the starting gate," she said. "That was a huge accomplishment. When you look out of the starting gate and it's dark and you can't see the Mausefalle, it looks like you're jumping off the edge of the world and it's very intimidating."

Von is one of the most successful skiers in history as she won 82 World Cup races in her career. She has also won eight World Championship medals and earned three medals in two different Winter Olympics. Another reason Vonn wanted to race the Streif was for her mother who died in August.

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"My mum always taught me to believe in myself," Von said. "And I knew I had the strength because she was still watching over me. I thought about her a lot while I was doing this project. And she always believed in me more than I believed in me."