Born in 1984, Vonn had her earliest experiences on skis falling down and picking herself up again in a US state not particularly known for being mountainous, Minnesota. But with a grandfather and a father who were competitive skiers, little Lindsey started carving the local hill aged just three. "I began racing at seven, and by nine I was doing international events," she remembers. Her talent as a small child proved so big that the whole family considered relocating for the sake of better training opportunities. Eventually her parents, brothers and sister all moved to Vail.
The youngster came on in leaps and bounds. At the age of 14, she became the only female American ever to win Italy!s Trofeo Topolino contest "dubbed" "Junior-Junior Worlds" and her name was entered into the Golden Book of Champions alongside girls who had gone on to win the Overall World Cup title.
In her first year of top-level competition, 15-year-old Lindsey finished on the podium at several NorAm events. Her first International Ski Federation (FIS) victory came in 2001; that same year she also bagged a Super Series win, as well as the Bronze in Combined at the US National Championships. In the same season she raced in her first Slalom World Cup. In the Super-G in Val d'Isere she scored her first World Cup points, finishing 26th.
Her progress continued in 2003 with a Silver medal at the Junior World Championships, as well as a Silver and a Bronze at the US Nationals. She continued to progress in 2003-04, winning two Gold medals at the US Championships, two medals at Junior Worlds, and making her first World Cup podium in Cortina d'Ampezzo.
The following season was even more exciting, with Lindsey capturing her maiden World Cup race victory and attending her first World Championships. She racked up 13 top-five finishes in World Cup and World Championship events, standing on the podium six times and ending the season ranked sixth overall in the world. By the start of 2005 Lindsey was right up where she belonged: with the best ski racers in the world. But she wanted more. Nothing less than the best would do. A fateful meeting would open the door - giving her career an unexpected push.
"When Red Bull invited me to be part of their Athletes Special Projects," says Lindsey, "I didn't need to think twice. I had a feeling this was going to be my big chance."
At the very beginning, the legendary Tyrolean coach and head of Red Bull Athletes Special Projects, Robert Trenkwalder, presented an unique concept to the coaches in charge at the US Ski Team, Patrick Riml and Alex Hoedlmoser - thus, out of a unique concept - an unique agreement arose. And this was paving the way for an excellent future cooperation between the US ski team and the team of ASP Red Bull.
Truly, the team turned Lindsey's life upside down, transforming the 20-year-old into the world's most professional skier.
She had an entirely new training regime, specifically tailored to Lindsey's needs; she took German lessons to make her day-to-day life in the major Alpine skiing countries easier; and targeted fitness and physio sessions during the competitive season. "At first, I would question every new suggestion," she says. "During power training, for example, I wanted to know the exact benefits of each individual exercise. Gradually I saw my strength and performance improve, so my confidence in it grew."
Direct from summer training in Oregon and Chile, she dashed out of the gates in December of that year to take victory in the Downhill events at Lake Louise, Canada and Val d'Isere, France.
The traditional spoils of the French race is a cow, which she happily received. The cow is appropriately named Olympe, and Lindsey still keeps the pet on a farm near the US Ski Team's training base in Austria.
Lindsey was even more tempted by another prize - namely an Olympic medal. "Last time I went to the Olympics, I was basically there for the experience, and it was really fun," Lindsey recalls. But 2006 was a different story. Heading for Turin, she was one of the women's US Ski Team's biggest hopefuls. Unfortunately, it was not to be. During a practice run, Kildow crashed and ended up in hospital. She was shaken, but the hospital eventually released her - Lindsey hadn't come this far not to race. She finished eighth in Downhill, seventh in Super G and 14th in the Slalom, despite that harrowing crash.
And there it was again, the attitude of never letting setbacks get her down: "That happened for a reason," she said. "It was a missed opportunity, but it gave me the fuel and motivation that I needed."
And need it she did: Lindsey crashed again in Austria, in October 2006. "I had a bit of bone bruising. It hasn't totally cleared up, but it's not preventing me from skiing," she commented. Indeed not. She bounced back to win the Downhill at Lake Louise (a place where she always seems to shine) with second places in another Downhill and Super G. A victory at Lake Louise followed in the Val d'Isere Downhill, one in the San Sicario/Sestriere Super G and six other podiums. Two of the most valuable she celebrated at the World Championships in Are, where Lindsey won silver in the Downhill and Super G. But she ended the season with a pulled tendon.
"Setbacks motivate me," Lindsey stressed again. And proved her point by dominating the speed disciplines in the 2007-08 season almost at will. One reason for this was the highly professional preparation as part of the Red Bull Athletes Special Projects: "The advantage is that we don't have to look after an entire team, instead we are able to focus on individual athletes," explains head of the Red Bull ASP Robert Trenkwalder. "During training my specialists for fitness and physiotherapy monitor every relevant parameter, allowing them to precisely tailor the scope and intensity to Lindsey's needs." Which especially applies to periods of training following injury, when a dedicated team of experts works with the fitness coach and physio to get the balance between recovery and training exactly right.
It's not unusual for Lindsey to be in the gym at 6am, carefully warming up in preparation for the stresses which the body will soon have to deal with. "Lindsey is driven by winning," says Trenkwalder, "which on the one hand is reflected in extremely professional self-discipline. On the other hand, she wants to give one hundred percent every time, all of the time.
Unfortunately it can result in her crashing out and injuring herself unnecessarily." But this year Lindsey had her ambition well under control. Combined with "so it appeared at the time" the form of her life, Lindsey won the Super Combination in St. Anton and five downhill races. The one in Lake Louise, of course, as well as the brutal test of courage in St. Anton and the classics in Cortina, Sestriere and Crans Montana. The series of victories not only garnered her the top rung in the downhill World Cup but also fulfilled her childhood dream: her first victory in the Overall World Cup.
Accompanied by Red Bull's Athletes Special Projects team and the speed coaches of the US ski team, such as Alex Hoedlmoser, Lindsey, by now Lindsey Vonn, has her sights firmly set on one ambitious goal: to become an all-round winner. Whereas her peers tend to specialize in one or two disciplines, Lindsey racked up nine wins and 16 podiums in four disciplines this year. She bagged her maiden Slalom victory in Levi, comfortably winning the Overall World Cup, the Downhill and the Super-G World Cup at the end of the season. But her record in the other disciplines was also impressive this season: in the World Cup super-combined she finished second, finishing third in the World Cup Slalom and eighth in the World Cup Giant Slalom. By contrast, the World Championships in Val d'Isere would turn out to be an emotional roller coaster: Lindsey won Gold in the Downhill and Super-G, but seriously injured herself on a broken champagne bottle during the victory celebrations. Red Bull ASP flew Lindsey to Innsbruck by private jet, where she underwent tendon surgery and was fitted with a splint. But her World Championship chance had come and gone: Lindsey had to skip the Giant Slalom, and after sensationally clocking the second-fastest time in the Slalom she skied out in the second run. She had already been disqualified from the super-combined for splitting a gate.
Infuriating, yes. But perhaps it will give Lindsey an extra push ahead of the forthcoming season, especially with the next major event with medals up for grabs being the Olympic Games in Whistler - which has always been Lindsey's long-term goal. "I'll be training harder than ever for this season," she announces. "Cause if you work hard," she says, "it will pay off in the end."
Those plans delivered an even more successful season in 2009/10. Lindsey's 33rd World Cup win came in the Super G in Garmisch, helping Lindsey to surpass Bode Miller's record for most World Cup victories by a US skier. The win also wrapped up her third consecutive overall title, and she became the first American skier to win three discipline titles in a single season. To top it all, Lindsey became the first American woman to win Olympic gold in the Downhill at the 2010 Vancouver Games. She also netted bronze in the Super G.
This avalanche of victories continues. In 2011, Lindsey again took the Downhill, Combined and Super G titles, only narrowly missing out on a fourth overall World Cup title. After clawing back her friend Maria Reisch's massive lead it went down to the wire. But poor weather conditions at the season's finale in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, meant Maria nabbed the title. Lindsey claimed another silver in the Downhill at the 2011 World Championships in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.
As a measure of Lindsey's impact on international sport, she was named Laureus World Sports Awards Sportswoman of the Year 2010, as well as the 2010 and 2011 ESPY awards. But all these medals and gongs pale into insignificance next to one particular achievement - as one of the few truly recognisable faces in skiing Lindsey bagged a part in her favourite TV show, Law & Order.
Still in her mid-20s and with the skills to match her determination, Lindsey is sure to leave a few other new entries in the sporting world's record books.
At the start of the 2011-12 season in Sölden, Lindsey finally realized one of her biggest goals: winning a Giant Slalom. Only four other female skiing legends (Janica Kostelic, Anja Paerson, Pernilla Wiberg and Petra Kronberger) have triumphed in all five disciplines.
That's not all. Despite private worries after her divorce from her husband, Lindsey also surpassed Renate Götschl's Super G record with 18 victories and took the Austrian's place in the rankings for most female World Cup wins. In the 2011-12 season, Lindsey won 12 races to take her third with 53 victories. She's now closing on Vreni Schneider (55 wins) and Annemarie Moser Pröll (62 wins).
In a fruitful season for Lindsey, she clinched her fourth overall victory (beating Tina Maze by an astonishing 578 points) as well as titles in Downhill, Super G and Super Combined. In total, Lindsey has now won 16 crystal globes.
Finally, at the World Cup finals in Schladming, Lindsey surpassed Janica Kostelic's benchmark by scoring 1,980 points in one season, setting yet another new women's record.
If 2011/12 is anything to go by, it looks like the first lady of alpine skiing will reign for a few years yet.