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Lindsey Vonn: Always Rising

The legendary skier, Olympic gold medalist, and entrepreneur joins “Boardroom Book Club” to go inside her new memoir, Rise.

Whether you’re the downhill, super-G, slalom, giant slalom, or super combined, Lindsey Vonn has dominated you.

She owns four Alpine Ski World Cup overall championships — tied for the all-time best mark among women. Her 82 total World Cup race victories stand alone at the top of the record books. She has threeWinter Olympics medals, including a downhill gold in 2010.

But her story didn’t end when she retired from ski racing in 2019 — she merely turned the page.

On the latest episode of “Boardroom Book Club,” the winter sports icon spoke with us about the journey that brought her to writing her new memoir, Rise,how she’s evolved as a competitor, and coming into her own as an advocate for mental health.

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SAM DUNN: Why is now the right time to release a memoir?

LINDSEY VONN: I retired from ski racing and I think it was a great time for me to reflect on my career and the experiences that I had. The ups and the downs, what I was able to overcome. In the moment, you don’t often reflect on what you’ve achieved and what you’ve gone through. In retirement, I’ve had a lot more time to reflect.

I think it was also a good process for me to be able to move past ski racing. To put kind of that part of my life behind me in a lot of ways.

SD: I can’t imagine that your competitive fire suddenly dissipates when you stop racing professionally. How do you find ways to channel it now?

LV: It’s been hard. I’m always competitive, so it’s hard to really tame that.

I don’t know if there is really such a thing as taming your competitiveness, but I think I’ve been able to funnel that into business instead of skiing. And it’s not the same, obviously, [but] I think that I get a lot of joy out of working out. That’s kind of where I get my physical competitiveness out of the way. And for some reason, fitness for me is more mental than anything. I need that combination of mental and physical.

And then in business, I’m very driven and I’ve used my competitiveness to my advantage in that regard. I’m never one to be sitting around; I’m always looking for the next project. ‘What more can I do?’ Networking and learning and all these new experiences. So I’ve put all that competitiveness to use — but it’s definitely not the same as racing down a mountain at 85 miles an hour. I’ll tell you that.

SD: Knowing that you’ve become an important voice for mental health, what’s your relationship like with fame?

LV: The spotlight is difficult, [but] it’s definitely part of the job of being a professional athlete and being on the world stage. That’s just how it goes. Everyone’s gonna have their opinion; that’s kind of what makes sports [what they are].

The other aspect of fame is being in the public eye on a personal level, and I think that is much more difficult for me to handle.

No matter how much I’ve been through, however thick my skin is now, it’s still not impenetrable. Things still hurt me, and I try as hard as I can not to engage, not to read comments, not to take offense to headlines. It’s the part of the job that you don’t necessarily expect, but are put in a position to have to deal with.

SD: How did your mental health journey start to take shape?

LV: I started talking about mental health in 2013, and that was really a personal decision. It was a time in my life when I really felt like I had to get that off my chest and start fresh and unload that. It felt really good to finally talk about it.

I really never talked about it with anyone because I felt embarrassed and ashamed. And when I did talk about it, so many people told me that it was gonna end my career and I was never gonna get sponsors and people are gonna dump me.

I did it. It was a personal decision. I didn’t really care what the outcome was professionally, but as it turns out, everyone supported me. I put it in my book because it’s a big part of my story.

Fame can put you in a lot of different positions, and oftentimes, people think that being successful equals happiness. It definitely does not do that. No matter how successful you are, you still come home to a room, and when you turn the lights off at night, you still have to be happy with who you are.

I had difficult times during injuries and being on the road by myself, and one of the reasons why I got my dog Lucy is because I needed a companion. It’s really hard to be on the road from months at a time and feel so isolated and alone. Lucy definitely helped me with that.

SD: How did Lucy come into your life?

LV: I got Lucy in Italy when I was on the road quite a few years ago now. I just got to the point where I was so lonely on the road. You’re in a hotel room by yourself and it eventually wears you down.

I found a nice family that had dogs, and Lucy was there, so I got her and really helped me so much. There really is no other love like the love of a dog.

SD: You made a name for yourself going downhill, but your memoir is called Rise. What does that title mean to you?

LV: It’s really about picking yourself up when you fall down. I’ve had so many crashes — both on and off the mountain — and I felt like this was an appropriate title. I really hope that readers are inspired to pick themselves back up in their own personal struggles and hope that gives them confidence and empowers them to feel stronger.

SD: I can’t let you go without asking about what it’s like to work out with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who also wrote a blurb for Rise. Have you guys ever flipped over a giant tire together?

LV: I’ve never flipped tires with DJ, but I feel like that would be really fun and incredibly… I don’t know, aggressive? I should definitely bring that up. He’s such a great person and he’s always inspiring.I was really thankful that he contributed to my book [with a] blurb on the back.

He’s always kind, and sometimes I’m like, ‘ are you actually human? It’s not possible that you can be this nice of a person and be this big of a superstar. I’ll work out with him anytime that he wants. I tell him, ‘I’m not gonna do arm day with you, but I’ll do leg day any time.’

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