AVON, Colo. — Nearly two months after a spectacular spill that ended Olympic champion Lindsey Vonn’s ski season, she came back to the slopes at Beaver Creek Saturday.
But she’s not trying out her newly reconstructed knee.
“Lindsey Vonn! Lindsey Vonn!” yelled a group of dozens of young girls, their parents, Beaver Creek staff and ski instructors.
Vonn arrived without crutches in a knee brace to cheers at a luncheon at the Osprey at Beaver Creek hotel.
“It was crazy. Like so many thoughts were going through my mind, ‘I was like, Lindsey Vonn. She’s within five-feet of me?’” laughed 13-year-old Cassidy Garber, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Young girls, like Garber, ages 7 to 14, are part of Vonn’s “Ski Girls Rock” program, which she started last year to help build girls’ confidence.
“There’s not a lot of programs out there where girls be can be themselves and build their self-esteem. At this age: 7, 10, 11, they kind of get their confidence,” Vonn said.
Vonn knows this fact all too well. Skiing helped her immensely.
“I did not excel at anything else. I wasn’t good at soccer. I tried figure skating and gymnastics. I’m not very good at anything. Skiing is where I found my confidence,” she said.
It was only Vonn’s second day without crutches after crashing during world competition in Austria on Feb. 5, tearing two ligaments and fracturing her tibial plateau in her right knee.
“My knee is not doing so well,” she said. “I fell really bad. I was in the World Championship in Austria and I was going really fast, like 75 mph,” she told the wide-eyed and inquisitive girls.
It’s her friendliness and her skill on the super-G that turns these little girls into super fans.
“I like Lindsey Vonn because I like to race and she races and she’s really good at it,” said Gabrielle Gutierrez.
“She had the accident two months ago and she still didn`t give up,” said fan Ella Murphy of Vail.
“I got quite a few months to be ready for the Olympics,” Vonn told the group.
Vonn said if all continues to go well with her twice-a-day therapy, she hopes to be back on her skis as early as September.