"I was hyperventilating," says the 23-year-old, who wed last month
Olympic downhill skier Lindsey Kildow is used to blazing down the side of a mountain at 85 mph, so getting married should have been a breeze – but Kildow says she almost wiped out.
“I was hyperventilating,” admits Kildow, who wed former Olympic skier Thomas Vonn on Sept. 29 in Deer Valley, Utah. “It was like a panic attack.”
Vonn, 31, saw the look on his bride’s face and urged her to relax. “Thomas was whispering, ‘breath, breath.’ I felt like I was going to pass out, or start crying,” Kildow, 23, tells PEOPLE.
But now, nearly three weeks into the marriage, Kildow, who is in Kirchberg, Austria training for the World Cup racing season, says she’s settling into being married. “We had been living together for four years, but there’s a difference,” she says. “There’s more unity and a connection we didn’t have before.”
When the couple got engaged in Kirchberg last New Year’s, they were surrounded by cheering teammates under a star-filled sky ablaze with fireworks. During the wedding ceremony at Silver Lake Lodge, it was snowing outdoors, “a good omen,” says Kildow, who wore an ivory Judd Waddell couture gown.
The 140 Guests feasted on steak, chicken and a four layer black forest chocolate cake at tables decorated with centerpieces named after the famous racing venues such as Vail, Beaver Creek and Cortina, Italy, where Kildow and Vonn had competed over the years.
“That was cool – it reminded us of all the places we had raced,” says, Kildow, who competed at the 2002 and 2006 Olympics and is tied for third in all-time wins among U.S. women skiers.
Kildow, raised in Burnsville, Minn. and Vail, and Vonn, who hails from Newburg, NY, will settle into their new home in Park City, Utah, where Vonn works as a stockbroker.
They plan to celebrate their honeymoon in May after the ski season, possibly in the Caribbean. Kildow is already counting the days. “By that time I will just want to go someplace warm where I can enjoy the water and sun and wear a bikini,” she says.