Lindsey Vonn Announces She's Retiring This Month: 'My Body Is Broken Beyond Repair'
In a lengthy Instagram post shared on Friday, the Olympic alpine skier announced that following the conclusion of the World Championships in Sweden this month, she will retire from the sport competitively.
“It’s been an emotional 2 weeks making the hardest decision of my life, but I have accepted that I cannot continue ski racing,” Vonn wrote on Instagram, alongside a slideshow of images from throughout her career. “I will compete at the World Championships in Downhill and SG next week in Åre, Sweden and they will be the final races of my career.”
“I have always pushed the limits of ski racing and it has allowed me to have amazing success but also dramatic crashes. I have never wanted the storyline of my career to be about injuries and because of that I decided not to tell anyone that I underwent surgery this past spring,” she added, sharing the information for the first time. “A large portion of cartilage that had delaminated from my bone was removed.”
Vonn went on to reveal that although she continued to compete despite her injuries, “despite extensive therapy” she is no longer able “to compete the way I know I can.”
During a super-G race in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, last month, Vonn failed to finish due to extreme pain in her knees. According to the Associated Press, Vonn did not place better than ninth in her three races.
Vonn went on to reveal that although she has continued to compete throughout her injuries in the past, her “body is screaming at me to STOP and it’s time for me to listen.”
“My crash in Lake Louise last year was much more painful than I let on, but I continued to race because I wanted to win a medal in the Olympics for my late grandfather,” she wrote this week, in reference to the bronze medal she won at the Pyeongchang Games.
“Again, I rehabbed my way back this summer and I felt better than I had in a long time. Then I crashed in Copper this November and injured my left knee, tearing my LCL plus sustaining 3 fractures,” she continued. “Despite extensive therapy, training and a knee brace, I am not able make the turns necessary to compete the way I know I can. My body is broken beyond repair and it isn’t letting me have the final season I dreamed of. My body is screaming at me to STOP and it’s time for me to listen.“
RELATED VIDEO: Lindsey Vonn Looks Back at Her 3-Time Olympic Medal-Winning Ski Career: ‘I Enjoyed Every Second’
“Honestly, retiring isn’t what upsets me,” the decorated athlete added. “Retiring without reaching my goal is what will stay with me forever. However, I can look back at 82 World Cup wins, 20 World Cup titles, 3 Olympic medals, 7 World Championship medals and say that I have accomplished something that no other woman in HISTORY has ever done, and that is something that I will be proud of FOREVER!”
Vonn had previously sworn she wouldn’t retire until she broke the record of the most World Cup wins, currently held by Ingemar Stenmark with 86.
“I always say, ‘Never give up!’ So to all the kids out there, to my fans who have sent me messages of encouragement to keep going… I need to tell you that I’m not giving up! I’m just starting a new chapter. Don’t lose faith in your dreams, keep fighting for what you love, and if you always give everything you have you’ll be happy no matter what the outcome,” she continued.
“Thank you for the amazing years, for always supporting me, and for making my job so fun. Can’t wait to see some of you in the finish in Åre where I will give it my all one last time,” she concluded, signing her post, “Love always, Lindsey.”
Speaking to PEOPLE last fall, Vonn said she is proud of her impressive career — with or without the World Cup record.
“I have been saying the past few years that I’ll keep skiing until I break the record, but I’ve come to the realization that my career is not the sum of this record,” Vonn said.
She continued, “I’ve long surpassed the women’s World Cup record and I’ve done things in ski racing that no one’s ever done before, and I’m proud of that and what I’ve accomplished as a whole, and I don’t necessarily need this record to solidify anything or prove anything to myself or anybody else.”
The Alpine World Ski Championship kicks off on Feb. 4. Vonn will compete in the Super-G event on Feb. 5 and in the women’s downhill event scheduled for Feb. 10.