COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Traditionally, alpine ski star Lindsey Vonn has been something of a summer workout fiend.
This past March, she came up just three points shy of what would have been a fourth straight overall World Cup overall title, denied in part because bad weather forced the cancellation of the season’s final race, a giant slalom in Lenzerheide, Switerland. Maria Riesch of Germany, who is Lindsey’s very good friend, won the overall.
Watch out, world.
Because this summer? Lindsey was saying in a phone call from Chile, where there’s snow: “I have had the most motivated summer I have ever had.” Maybe, she said, she took two weeks off — total.
On Friday night, Lindsey was named the USOC sportswoman of the year for her 2010 campaign, which included that third World Cup overall and two Olympic medals, gold in the downhill and bronze in the super-G.
Evan Lysacek, who also won gold at those Vancouver Games in men’s figure skating, was named the USOC sportsman of the year; the bobsled team piloted by Steve Holcomb won the team of the year. Lysacek and Holcomb were both here to accept their awards, Lysacek announcing he intends to go for the Sochi 2014 Games, Holcomb saying he wants to keep on going through Pyeongchang and 2018.
It’s not that Lindsey didn’t want to be here as well. She sent a video thank-you in which she said she was “excited” to be an Olympic athlete and “hopefully represented the Olympic values,” and anyone who has ever observed the many times Lindsey has stopped to patiently and graciously pose for photos or sign autographs for her younger fans knows she understands full well the reach of those Olympic values.
The USOC award was Lindsey’s second in a row. “There are so many amazing athletes out there,” she was saying on the phone. “I am incredibly honored to be mentioned in the same category with them. To have won this award two years in a row is more than I could have hoped for. I really appreciate it.”
This attitude is no act.
This is not the stuff of locker-room cliché.
This is real Lindsey.
“You can never take anything for granted,” she said. “Sometimes it’s easy to get comfortable. You can never be satisfied. You always have to be hungry. That was one of the things I have definitely learned over the last few seasons.
“And it is very much a learning process. There’s a reason people are veterans. They have been around a while. They have figured it out. Every year I have learned something. I am a much more mature skier and a much more mature person than I was even last year.”
To recap the 2011 season:
In early February, Lindsey suffered a concussion. That forced her to take some time off.
When she resumed skiing, she decided to simply ski with abandon, reasoning she had nothing to lose — she was that far down in the standings.
In late February, at the World Cup stop in Sweden, Lindsey was 216 points down.
By the time the season ended, and the weather canceled that final giant slalom in Lenzerheide, Lindsey had closed the gap to just three points — Riesch ending with 1,728, Vonn with 1,725.
“I was disappointed,” Lindsey said. “To say the least.”
In May, she went to the USOC’s training center near San Diego, to work on both her explosive power and her agility. She said, “It’s similar to what I did last year. But a more intense program this year.”
After that month, she went to Europe, to “really disconnect from the world and get hunkered down and get a good block of conditioning training.”
Then it was to New Zealand, to get there ahead of the U.S. team, to get “a lot of really good info on equipment and get feeling really good, really strong in all events.”
“Right now we’re finishing up in Chile,” she said, literally finishing up, dashing out when the phone call ended after three weeks of downhill and super-G training, and a fair amount of that with the guys.
“I feel like this summer has gone really well,” Lindsey said. “I am extremely motivated for another season.”
Watch out, world.