There's been a "really a profound evolution of the definition of an athlete and what impact athletes can have on the world," the former Olympian says

By Georgia Slater
December 18, 2020 12:35 PM
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Lindsey Vonn is recognizing the importance of celebrating athletes for their hard work both on and off the field.

As one of the hosts of the Sports Illustrated Awards, streaming live this weekend, Vonn tells PEOPLE that she's "really happy" that the brand is taking the opportunity to recognize athletes for "all of the incredible efforts and strides that they're making" in their communities.

"I think there's been, especially over the course of the last five years, really a profound evolution of the definition of an athlete and what impact athletes can have on the world," Vonn says. "It's not just being inspirational and being an incredible athlete in their field of play. It's also about what athletes can do for the world."

The Olympic gold medalist skier, 36, says it's crucial to acknowledge that athletes have more to offer beyond just their sport.

"I think athletes have been always put in this box where we're only meant to do one thing and that's our sport and that's it. And I think this evolution really shows what we can do and how we can impact the world," she explains.

"We need more of these award shows to really recognize athletes and what they've accomplished, again, not just within the field of play, but also outside of it," Vonn adds. "It was a huge honor that [Sports Illustrated] asked me to be a part of the first-ever awards show."

A reimagined format of the annual Sportsperson of the Year Awards, the new SI Awards will highlight some of the most disruptive and courageous athletes and debut new awards including player of the year, team of the year, inspiration of the year, and more.

Lindsey Vonn
| Credit: FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images

While at home amid the coronavirus pandemic, Vonn, who retired from her sport last year due to injuries, says she's been "focused a lot on [her] fitness."

"That's one thing that I've realized in retirement. After my skiing career, I've felt like working out really kept me positive and especially, even more so with the pandemic, I needed to work out every day to feel sane," she explains.

The athlete, who is engaged to hockey player P.K. Subban, also notes that she and her fiancé are able to work out together "most of the time."

P.K. Subban and Lindsey Vonn
| Credit: Jamie McCarthy/Getty

In addition to her fitness routine, Vonn says she's been "really busy" and has been "working even harder during COVID."

"I was able to focus on things that I didn't have time to focus on before," she says. "I started my own production company, I'm finishing my memoir ... and working with my foundation."

Vonn will co-host the SI Awards alongside Richard Jefferson, Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson, and Cari Champion. The show will also welcome the five sportsperson of the year honorees: LeBron James, Naomi Osaka, Patrick Mahomes, Breanna Stewart, and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif.

The SI Awards will stream live from Las Vegas on Saturday, Dec. 19 at 7 p.m. EST on Facebook via the Sports Illustrated Facebook page.