S2 E9. Woman and Change: Sports with Lindsey Vonn, World-Renowned Ski Racer

[00:00:00] Section: Podcast introduction

[00:00:00] Overdub: Hello and welcome to season two of The Story of Woman. In today’s world, it can feel like change is happening, but only in the wrong direction. While we agree there’s still a lot of work to do, we’re reframing that story.

[00:00:17] Overdub: I’m your host, Anna Stoecklein and each episode of this season I’ll be exploring how women make change happen from those at the top helping to drive it. We’ll look at where we are on this long march to equality, what lies ahead, and how important you are in the fight.

[00:00:38] Overdub: This isn’t a story of a world that’s doomed to oppress women forever. This is a story of an opportunity to grow stronger than ever before. Exactly as womankind has always done.

[00:00:50] Section: Episode level introduction

[00:00:52] Anna Stoecklein: Hello and welcome back. Thank you so much for being here. My conversation today was a pretty [00:01:00] surreal one because it was with someone that I grew up watching on TV every time the Winter Olympics came around for pretty much my whole, uh, younger years. She was a household name in America and likely elsewhere in the world: Lindsey Vonn.

[00:01:16] Anna Stoecklein: Lindsey is a ski racer and has won so many titles and championships that she has the third highest super ranking of all skiers, men or women. And when she retired in 2019, she was the most decorated American skier of all time.

[00:01:33] Anna Stoecklein: A lot of the records she broke along the way were men's records, and as you'll hear us talk about today, Lindsey tried to take that a step further and compete against men in their races, but sadly, the sport just wasn't ready for that yet.

[00:01:47] Anna Stoecklein: What I really love about Lindsey is her unabashed confidence and competitiveness, something that we'll get into today because, while you might think that, yeah, of course she has these things because she's [00:02:00] a professional athlete, so it makes sense that she's confident and competitive. As it turns out, if you're a female professional athlete, you still aren't protected from the infuriating and pervasive stereotypes that as a woman, you should be neither confident nor competitive. In our conversation today, we talk about this and other double standards Lindsey was held to, such as everyone's wish that she just not looked so aggressive when flying down a mountain at 80 miles per hour. But also, that she not look too feminine either, of course.

[00:02:37] Anna Stoecklein: We also talk about the ski industry and sports as a whole, which have made a lot of progress, especially in recent years. I'm not gonna read Lindsey's bio now because I pretty much do that a couple minutes into the interview, listing out all of her many, many, many racing awards. But in addition to that and her Foundation and her production company, [00:03:00] both of which we talk about in our conversation, she has a new book out that's called Rise, which is a memoir that tells her story as a kind of fixture in the American sports landscape for almost 20 years.

[00:03:13] Anna Stoecklein: And because her career was so long, it really spanned a big transformation that America underwent in recent decades, in how it recognizes and celebrates female athletes. And a lot of her story really demonstrates the challenges women faced in the world of sports during that period, and also how she helped to blaze a trail for the next generation of female athletes. So hopefully the next time a woman is flying down a mountain at 80 miles per hour, we say, wow, isn't that impressive? Instead of, wow, if she would only just smile a little

[00:03:46] Anna Stoecklein: This was such an enjoyable conversation. Getting to talk to Lindsey again, whose name I just grew up seeing on the TV and getting an insight into what it's like flying down a mountain [00:04:00] faster than most cars drive on the freeway, and hearing about her whole journey of going from a nine year old dreaming of being an Olympian to the most decorated American skier of all time.

[00:04:12] Anna Stoecklein: That's all for me for now. Please enjoy my conversation with Lindsey Vonn.

[00:04:18] Section: Episode

[00:04:18] Anna Stoecklein: Hi, Lindsey, welcome. Thank you so much for being here today.

[00:04:22] Lindsey Vonn: Hey, thanks for having me.

[00:04:23] Anna Stoecklein: Absolutely. I'm really, really excited to talk with you today. I wanna start by having you try to describe for us what ski racing is like. Because, to describe it in your book, I loved this line, in your new book, Rise, you wrote, "It's like if you drive your car on a highway in a place where the speed limit is legally 75 miles per hour, and then you stick your head out the window, that's how it feels, except when you're ski racing there is no car. There is only you."

[00:04:57] Anna Stoecklein: Which of course means no pads, no [00:05:00] protection. And having watched some of your races again and preparing for this interview, I'm just amazed that humans are capable of going down a mountain 80 miles per hour on two tiny little boards. So, yeah, what can you tell us about what that's like?

[00:05:15] Lindsey Vonn: I mean, that's a pretty good analogy. I think a lot of people can't, to your point, believe that humans can do that and go down an icy mountain at 85 miles an hour. So I mean, that's how we feel with the wind in our face when we're going that fast. But also it's very similar when you're driving a car, it's a very similar visual looking at your line and where you're going. It just is happening a lot faster and obviously to the point there's no car, so there's a lot less protection.

[00:05:45] Lindsey Vonn: I love that feeling of going that fast and the rush and the adrenaline. That's what I love most about skiing. And also the fact that we're out on the mountain and there's nothing that's stopping you. I like that feeling of [00:06:00] freedom and independence and I don't find it anywhere else.

[00:06:04] Anna Stoecklein: Yeah, I can only imagine what that's like. I've always been a pizza pie going down the mountain kinda person, so...

[00:06:11] Lindsey Vonn: Hey, pizza's good too. Pizza's good too.

[00:06:13] Anna Stoecklein: So then how did you come to enjoy flying down a mountain at 80 miles per hour with no protection? Can you tell us a bit about your story getting into skiing from childhood and how you got started?

[00:06:27] Lindsey Vonn: Well, I grew up in Minnesota so there's no mountains to go 80 miles an hour on it's, I grew up at Buck Hill and it's about 260 vertical feet, which is probably less than most bunny hills on any other mountain. But it was a great place for me to just get my base.

[00:06:44] Lindsey Vonn: I learned my technical skillset there. I had an amazing coach, Eric Seiler, who was actually also my dad's coach growing up. He's from Austria. He's still kicking. He is 97 years old. He's a legend. My dad realized that I needed [00:07:00] the mountains to be able to really expand my skillset and to be able to do more than just slalom.

[00:07:07] Lindsey Vonn: And so we moved to Colorado and that's when I fell in love with downhill. I mean, I did my first little mini downhill when I was nine years old, and I loved it. You know, I loved going fast and I just continued to go faster and faster until, you know, I was racing downhill races when I was like 14, 15, and then obviously made it to the World Cup, and that ended up to be my strongest discipline shockingly.

[00:07:33] Anna Stoecklein: Yes, and I'm gonna read off some of your stats from that in a minute, but speaking of when you were nine years old, you didn't just like casually start skiing at this age. At the age of nine, you set a goal of getting into the Olympics in eight years time. So tell us a little bit about that story and how you knew at that age that that's what you wanted to do. And then also what does your parents say when they have a nine year [00:08:00] old coming to them and saying, this is what I want to do in eight years?

[00:08:03] Lindsey Vonn: Well, I met Picabo Street when I was nine, and that was a tipping point for me. You know, I had loved ski racing up until that point. It was, you know, really the only thing I was good at, I had friends, but when I met Picabo at an autograph standing in Minnesota, I realized that that's what I wanted to be.

[00:08:20] Lindsey Vonn: I wanted to be her. I wanted to be an Olympian, and it really gave me this solid goal. And I came home and I said, Dad this is what I wanna do, how do we get there? And he said, well, the next Olympics that you could compete at would be Salt Lake in 2002, you'd be 17 years old. He didn't even blink. He didn't bat an eye, he didn't laugh, he didn't snicker.

[00:08:40] Lindsey Vonn: He was like, well, it's gonna be hard work, are you ready? And I'm like, I'm ready, dad. You know, I'm nine years old. And we made like a calendar. We made basically a 10 year plan and what races I would need to do and what level I would need to be by a certain time period to make the games. And we hit pretty much every check mark and I eventually made it.[00:09:00]

[00:09:00] Anna Stoecklein: Yes, you did that and a lot more. So you have not one but three Olympic medals. Eight World Championship Medals. Four Women's World Cup Overall Championships. You set a number of new records for women, including 82 World Cup victories, which by the way was only five away from having the most victories ever. You also set records for men and women, including winning 20 World Cup Crystal Globe titles, and you have the third highest super ranking of all skiiers, men or women.

[00:09:36] Anna Stoecklein: And that doesn't even cover everything, we're gonna run out of time. So I'd say your nine year old self would be quite proud. Would you?

[00:09:44] Lindsey Vonn: Yeah, definitely. My goal was just to be in the Olympics and to win a medal eventually, but I never set out to break records. I love going fast, and I think the more success I had, the more I wanted to continue to get better and to have more success, [00:10:00] and it just kind of snowballed. But I definitely never expected to be in this position in my career. Absolutely not.

[00:10:08] Anna Stoecklein: It's incredible, like you said, when you were starting to train, you just started going faster and it's like you just kept going faster and faster and faster for a few decades.

[00:10:17] Lindsey Vonn: Yes, exactly.

[00:10:19] Anna Stoecklein: So in order to fly down a mountain at this speed, and in order to win all of these medals and World Cups, you have to be confident, competitive, and aggressive. Three things that women aren't exactly encouraged to be. You wrote in your book that there's a massive double standard when it comes to competitiveness and aggression in male and female athletes, one that I felt hit up against many times, and you pointed out the irony in the book, I mean it is incredibly ironic that even professional female athletes are expected to be less competitive and less aggressive. I mean, that's literally your job. How did you [00:11:00] see this play out in your career? How did you come up against it?

[00:11:04] Lindsey Vonn: It happened a lot with the media, how I approached ski racing, how I approach wanting to win. And I think people, they expect you to be more soft, you know, more dainty or feminine or however you wanna picture it. I think a lot of people didn't appreciate the fact that I wanted to win. I love ski racing because I love ski racing. I am passionate about what I do, but I wanted to win and I hate losing. And so, I was very vocal about it. You know, I always was authentic. I always spoke what was on my mind. It definitely rubbed people the wrong way sometimes, and I couldn't really understand why.

[00:11:44] Lindsey Vonn: And I saw that often with Serena, for example, she was always vocal and you could tell she always wanted to win. And she got so much criticism for it. And when you look at someone like John McEnroe, he is a hero [00:12:00] because of it. He is on a pedestal because of the way he was vocal and ferociously competitive and yelling at the linesman.

[00:12:09] Anna Stoecklein: Mm-hmm.

[00:12:09] Lindsey Vonn: But if a woman yells at the lineman, then it's like, oh my God, you need to kick her out of the tournament. And I just always felt that double standard. So unfair because we're athletes, we all wanna win. If you literally say that you don't wanna win, I don't believe you. I, I wouldn't believe any athlete who says that. So it's not fair to say it's okay for a man to want to win, but it's not okay for a woman to want to win.

[00:12:33] Lindsey Vonn: Again, I never changed who I was because people didn't like what I was saying. I just kept saying what I felt, and I think that's why a lot of women especially, could resonate with me because I never conformed.

[00:12:47] Anna Stoecklein: Yeah, and I think definitely it'll resonate with a lot of us, even if we aren't professional athletes, this wanting to do well, wanting to win. Even if you feel that strongly, you feel like you have to keep it inside. Cuz exactly as you say, [00:13:00] if you say that out loud, you're breaking a taboo. And, again, I just find it so ironic that that's literally your job and you felt like you would get push back if you even talk about it and like that's the whole point.

[00:13:12] Lindsey Vonn: Yeah, that's the whole point. And you know, I would cross the finish line and I would scream and I would be so happy and like pumped up and everyone's like, whoa, tone it down, Lindsey. I'm like, what do you want me to do? What do you want me to do?

[00:13:25] Anna Stoecklein: Because you know, if you didn't get pumped up, people would be like, oh, she's not even grateful. She's not even excited.

[00:13:30] Lindsey Vonn: She's not even excited. She's not thankful. Yeah, exactly. You know, so it's just such a double standard. I think it's stupid.

[00:13:36] Anna Stoecklein: Yeah, me too. Me too. You mentioned in the book, and you know, I agree with this, that being competitive is important. It's important to have that kind of drive, whether you're an athlete or not. So I'm curious why you feel like it's important to be competitive? What do you feel like it does for a person, whether you're an athlete or not?

[00:13:57] Lindsey Vonn: Well, I think generally competition is [00:14:00] something that can push you. It's not really a comparing yourself to others as it is pushing yourself. And I always felt like I was competing against myself. It was me in the mountain. I didn't feel like I was raising against another woman. I was racing against, how fast can I push myself?

[00:14:18] Lindsey Vonn: And when you're in sports, you have first place, second place, third place. And I think sports is a unique platform in which if you don't win, you can go and you say, okay, I could work harder in this area or this area and I can make improvements and you know what, next time I'm gonna win. And even if you don't win, it's more of picking yourself back up if you fail and pushing yourself further.

[00:14:41] Lindsey Vonn: And I think a lot of kids, especially, you know, if they don't do what they set out to do the first time they quit. And I think it's important in sports and in competition to be able to say it's okay to fail. Pick yourself back up and try again. That is, I think, ultimately the lesson [00:15:00] in which I think is so important in sports and competition.

[00:15:03] Anna Stoecklein: Couldn't agree more. There's so much that sports and competition teaches you for off the mountain. So how did you foster your confidence and be comfortable using your voice in the face of this kind of pushback?

[00:15:18] Lindsey Vonn: Well, I think generally I got a lot of confidence from my preparation. I worked so hard in the gym that when I got on the mountain, I knew that I was in the best shape of anyone there, and I knew that with the skillset that I had on the slopes that I could win. And I just never doubted that. I never doubted my preparation. I never doubted how strong I was. I never doubted that I could win.

[00:15:43] Lindsey Vonn: And I think that confidence allowed me to be able to say, I don't care what people think. I'm just gonna be me. And also, if I don't win, that's fine. I'll win the next day. I also think that I was oddly confident on the mountain, but I was far [00:16:00] less so off the mountain. I wasn't really comfortable with who I was as a person, although I was extremely confident in who I was as a racer, and I think it took a lot of time to develop and to really find that confidence off the slopes. But the mountains always where I felt at home and, again, uniquely confident.

[00:16:20] Anna Stoecklein: Yeah. And I think probably a lot of us can relate to that as well, where we feel more confident in some areas, less confident in others. But building up your skills in an area allows you to build that confidence. And then you're more able to use your voice cuz you're confident in whatever it is that you're doing.

[00:16:37] Lindsey Vonn: Exactly.

[00:16:38] Anna Stoecklein: So adding to the irony of all of this, you aren't supposed to come off as aggressive or outspoken because that's not really feminine. But you also can't be too feminine because that's not appropriate for female athletes either, apparently. There's this fine line that you're expected to walk, and I thought the part that you [00:17:00] wrote about in your book about makeup and femininity was quite interesting and not a perspective I hear very often. So I'd love for you to tell us about your interest in hair and makeup and the kinds of pushback that you received for it.

[00:17:12] Lindsey Vonn: Ski racing, we're always covered up. I've got helmet and goggles and my speed suit, and there's really not much of me that you actually see, as opposed to soccer or tennis, for example. You can see exactly who you are and your facial expressions, and so really all you see is my hair, which I loved having a long blonde braid cuz you could always spot me out and, and it was end up being like my trademark.

[00:17:39] Lindsey Vonn: But I felt like makeup was a part of my game face. I had a special routine for races and I felt the most confident when I did that. And I got a lot of pushback from, especially a lot of men, a lot of people that were actually on my team, and I didn't [00:18:00] really understand it because, It really had nothing to do with anyone else. It was my way of expressing myself, of being a strong, confident woman. And honestly, I don't even know why people had an opinion on it.

[00:18:11] Anna Stoecklein: Yes.

[00:18:12] Lindsey Vonn: Cause it nothing to do with them.

[00:18:13] Anna Stoecklein: Yes.

[00:18:15] Lindsey Vonn: But that's how I felt confident and I leaned into it and it became my thing. And even to the point of some of the Austrian coaches were telling their athletes that they needed to wear makeup like me, it kind of went full circle. So it's was such a bizarre thing on both sides. And I think for me it was just important to express who I am and it was just a part of my game face. End of story.

[00:18:43] Anna Stoecklein: I love that. I love that. And like you said, who cares? Why does every...

[00:18:47] Lindsey Vonn: Who cares?

[00:18:48] Anna Stoecklein: Why does everybody care?

[00:18:49] Lindsey Vonn: A lot of people care.

[00:18:51] Anna Stoecklein: It's like all of these not allowing confidence, aggression, encouraging femininity, but not too much. It's just all these made up rules and [00:19:00] boxes that we put women in. We put men in too. They just have different boxes. You know? They can be aggressive. But they can't be sad.

[00:19:06] Lindsey Vonn: Yeah. And I think aggression too was something for me, like, I mean, we're racing down the mountain 85 miles an hour. Do you expect me to be very passive and...

[00:19:17] Anna Stoecklein: Yeah, that sounds dangerous.

[00:19:18] Lindsey Vonn: I know. It is dangerous, actually. And when I'm in the starting gate, I realize that I have a very aggressive face on and I'm breathing fire. But that's what it takes to win a downhill race. You're literally risking your life. And I mean, if you look at a football player, they look pretty much the same. So I don't know why I can't make that face or someone needs to comment on my face when that's honestly what it takes for me to win a race.

[00:19:49] Anna Stoecklein: Yeah, it should be whatever it takes. Doesn't matter what your face looks like.

[00:19:54] Lindsey Vonn: Yes.

[00:19:54] Anna Stoecklein: So on a slightly different note, so as I mentioned, you hold a few all-time [00:20:00] records for both men and women, and I was really intrigued about this path that you took for a little while trying to ski against men in competition.

[00:20:08] Anna Stoecklein: And you even talked to Billie Jean King about it, who of course famously played against, and beat in three straight sets, the former number one ranked men's tennis player, Bobby Riggs. So I'd love to hear why you wanted to compete against men, but I'm also curious to hear what advice did Billie give you when you talked to her?

[00:20:30] Lindsey Vonn: Well, it all started when I was training with the men. I mean, I always trained with the men, or at least I tried to, because the men were faster than the women. That's just how it is. They were stronger and they're better, they're faster. And I wanted to elevate my skiing, so I wanted to ski against the best.

[00:20:47] Lindsey Vonn: And when I was training with them, I was training with the top five downhill skiers in the world at the time, and I was right with them. On some runs I was beating them. And my coaches [00:21:00] jokingly said, you should race against the men, you'd be pretty competitive. And then I was like, maybe I should, and that would elevate my skiing and I could actually see what my limits were.

[00:21:10] Lindsey Vonn: That was really my ultimate goal, was to see how hard I could push myself, because when I skied with the men, I elevated my skiing. There's no question about it. I skied better every time I skied with them. And if I could race against them, I was like, I wonder what I could achieve. I tried for about six years.

[00:21:29] Lindsey Vonn: And I just kept getting shut down at every turn. I did get support from the Canadian Ski Federation, which was really amazing and I appreciated it. And I got a lot of support from, I'd say half of the men on the World Cup.

[00:21:41] Lindsey Vonn: And I asked Billie Jean, I said, what does it take to do this? And she said, well, you have an uphill battle, and for me it was an exhibition, so I didn't have a league or the regulations that you do, so it's gonna be a long fight.

[00:21:55] Lindsey Vonn: And I also talked with Annika Sörenstam cuz she also actually competed against the men [00:22:00] in the pga. And I thought that was the biggest example of actually being in the men's league, and they would just shut it down.

[00:22:08] Lindsey Vonn: And I was so disappointed because it would've been a huge personal goal, but I think it would also have really helped women in sports, especially in ski racing, to see that example set. But unfortunately, there's a lot of politics and a lot of people who didn't want that to happen or didn't want me to beat any men. And then I got shut down.

[00:22:28] Anna Stoecklein: Well, perhaps, you knocked on the door and it might not have opened, but perhaps the next woman that comes along...

[00:22:35] Lindsey Vonn: There's a crack.

[00:22:36] Anna Stoecklein: Exactly, exactly. There's crack. Yes. The next person that comes along, they're gonna say, you know what, we just went through this for six years with Lindsey, maybe we should reconsider. There's new people. There's more women in these positions of power, perhaps, which is something we'll get into next.

[00:22:52] Anna Stoecklein: So on that note, on women in positions of power, most of what we've been talking about so far is differences at an individual level, [00:23:00] but there's also the gendered imbalance in the institution of skiing and sports generally as well, especially when it comes to these positions of power.

[00:23:08] Anna Stoecklein: So my understanding is that alpine skiing is somewhat unique on this front because while there is some equitable parts to it in terms of participation and races and even pay, that when you look at the decision makers, coaches, International Ski Federation, and even some of the more niche areas of the industry like equipment suppliers, ski manufacturers, and the people managing sponsorship, when you look at these kinds of areas, there's a lot, lot less women. So I'm curious what you can tell us about this problem, and if you noticed that in your own career?

[00:23:46] Lindsey Vonn: I mean, it's always been present. I maybe know three or four coaches in my entire skiing career. I think inherently skiing is a difficult sport to coach for women. It's a very [00:24:00] labor intensive job, and I personally wouldn't wanna do it. It's doesn't sound that fun to be honest with you. Standing on this side of a slope for six hours a day, freezing, doesn't, doesn't sound too appealing to me.

[00:24:13] Anna Stoecklein: You don't even like the cold.

[00:24:14] Lindsey Vonn: I don't actually like cold. No, I hate the cold.

[00:24:17] Anna Stoecklein: That was a funny tidbit from your book I didn't expect.

[00:24:20] Lindsey Vonn: It's, it's why I ski fast. I can get down the mountain faster and put my clothes back on.

[00:24:25] Anna Stoecklein: Makes sense.

[00:24:26] Lindsey Vonn: There's not a lot of women around, but I honestly didn't think that prohibited me from getting better or I didn't feel like I wasn't represented. It just kind of was the way it was, and no man told me that I couldn't achieve something.

[00:24:41] Lindsey Vonn: I always had really supportive men around me, which I think was a really critical part. I think if women wanted to do the job, that we should support them. I don't think that there's, again, many women that do but I think that there could be definitely a lot more women in the decision making of not just skiing, but all [00:25:00] sports, in the C-suite level and people that are able to recognize what women need and support them on that level.

[00:25:08] Lindsey Vonn: Because even if there's not coaches, you still need someone looking out for women's rights as a whole on the entire circuit. And that takes people in the position of power to be able to do that. So I think there's progress. I definitely do see progress. It's not where it needs to be, but I think how we've adapted in the equality of women in the business place in general is trickling into sports.

[00:25:33] Lindsey Vonn: I think most companies that I see try to have an equal number of men and women. And I think that is coming into sports and for example, the US Olympic team had a mandate that it had to be an equal number of male and female participants, which ended up being a little bit controversial because there was maybe more men that should have been racing and less women.

[00:25:56] Lindsey Vonn: We didn't really have the same depth on both sides, so it ended up [00:26:00] being a little off of what it should have been, but at least the effort is being made and there are people that are looking out for that and trying to push that forward.

[00:26:10] Anna Stoecklein: Good. Well, I'm glad to hear it's getting better and there are people looking out, this is music to my ears. Because it's obviously important to have women in these positions, not just to ensure that they're there, like you said, representing women and making the decisions that are gonna impact women, but also as role models. You know, you mentioned right in the beginning, Picabo Street, who was a big influence on you, and obviously she's a skier versus someone in a position of power in the C-Suite and everything like we've been talking about.

[00:26:39] Anna Stoecklein: But I still think having women in these types of positions would serve a role as role models. Important in two different ways there. So on that note, you mentioned Picabo Street, but yeah, I'd like to hear a bit more about who your influences were and how important you feel like having role models are for getting more women into this [00:27:00] sport?

[00:27:00] Lindsey Vonn: I really think that it's important to have someone to look up to in order to have aspirations to reach that level or higher. I think when kids don't have anyone to look up to. They think that that's the highest that they can achieve. And so I think it's so important to have powerful women at every level of business, of sports, because young girls need to look to that and need to say, I can do that too.

[00:27:26] Lindsey Vonn: And that's what Picabo did for me. I didn't watch ski racing on tv. There wasn't ski racing on tv. If I was lucky, I got a VHS tape of like the winning runs from the year before and I wasn't able to have anyone really to look up to and tell her. And she was someone tangible. She wasn't just a cartoon character that I read in a comic book. She was an actual person.

[00:27:49] Lindsey Vonn: And because of her, I aspired to be bigger and better than what I thought I could be. I really think it's important to have women like that. I mean, I looked to Billie Jean King when I wanted [00:28:00] to race men to Annika Sörenstam because they did it, they achieved what I wanted to and it helped push me forward. And I think we just need to keep pushing the envelope, keep breaking the next glass ceiling so that the next generation can reach even higher than what we achieved.

[00:28:15] Anna Stoecklein: Well, you have certainly been doing that, and I also love this little tidbit from your book that your dad cut out magazine clippings of strong female athletes across a variety of different sports and had them hanging up because he wanted you to know what was possible and to help you visualize it. I love that, and I can only imagine how many little girls' rooms have you up on the walls now.

[00:28:40] Lindsey Vonn: Wow. Well, I hope so. I mean, my dad was really forward thinking in that way, and I mean, when I was nine he said, this is a really great time to be a female in sports because you have so many more opportunities than the women before you did. If I didn't have Picabo to look up to, I don't know what I would've achieved.

[00:28:58] Lindsey Vonn: And that was the premise for my foundation is [00:29:00] really that hopefully I could be what Picabo was for me to other girls, and not just in skiing, but just in life. Empowering them to believe in themselves because a lot of kids in general, not just girls, but a lot of children don't get the positive reinforcement and people actually tell them, not that they can do something, but quite the opposite. And it's really frustrating to hear that when I work with kids, because to put them down at such young age, it limits their entire lives to what they could achieve. So I hope that I've been able to empower some girls and boys as well, and I will definitely do my best to continue to do that.

[00:29:37] Anna Stoecklein: I have no doubt that you have, but I would love to have you tell us a bit more about the Foundation, so you've alluded to it there, but yeah, the Lindsey Vonn Foundation. Can you tell us what it is, why you wanted to start it, and yeah, what do you guys do?

[00:29:50] Lindsey Vonn: It really came from Picabo and 90 seconds spent with her changed my life. And so what can I do when I interact with kids for a day, [00:30:00] for a weekend, if I empower them with scholarships and programs. And we started in 2015, and so our mission is to empower girls through scholarships and programs, underserved girls.

[00:30:12] Lindsey Vonn: It's been so rewarding. I've seen the kids that come to our camps come in very meek and shy and leave empowered and courageous, and that's ultimately the goal is for them to believe in themselves. Just like Picabo allowed me to believe in myself. And we've been able to serve thousands of girls and we've given out over a million dollars in scholarships, and I'm really proud of what we've been able to achieve so far and just going to continue to try to help.

[00:30:38] Anna Stoecklein: Yeah, that's incredible. Over a million dollars in scholarships. So you wrote in your book to read another little excerpt here, "A lot of women stand out not just because of their victories, but because of the possibilities they created, the ideas they inspired, and the path they paved for the next generation."

[00:30:55] Anna Stoecklein: So this is all along the lines of what we've been talking about. And like I said, I think little [00:31:00] girls around the world are gonna have posters of you on their walls. You're doing the work with the Foundation. You've cracked the ceiling when it comes to being able to compete against men on the mountains. But I'm still gonna ask you this question generally, about what ways do you feel like you've changed the game for women and skiing?

[00:31:21] Lindsey Vonn: I think I've hopefully changed their mindset. I feel like one thing that people, especially women have connected with me on is my ability to overcome adversity. I've had so many injuries in my life. I've been divorced. I've had a pretty turbulent personal life as well, and I think I've empowered women to believe in themselves and to not let any adversity bring them down.

[00:31:47] Lindsey Vonn: I've had so many girls come up to me and said, I was injured, or I was in a bad relationship, and you inspired me to keep pushing ahead. And that's what I hopefully want to do is empower women to believe in [00:32:00] themselves, to believe in what they're capable of, no matter what stands in their way.

[00:32:04] Anna Stoecklein: Amazing .Mindsets, I love. So then what is next for Lindsey Vonn? What does the future hold?

[00:32:12] Lindsey Vonn: There's so much. I'm really grateful for every opportunity that I have, and I've worked really hard to put myself in a position to have these opportunities after my skiing career. But I've got my production company and we just got a big CVS deal and we're trying to get some things slated and I've got my ski line with Head, my goggles, my unique ski goggles. Again, my Foundation is a huge priority for me.

[00:32:36] Lindsey Vonn: And I've got my traditional sponsorships as well. I work with the Rock on Project Rock with Under Armour, which has been really fun. And he's such a girl dad, you know, he's such an advocate for women and girls, and it's so great to be able to work with someone like that that's not just an amazing actor and businessman, but also just an amazing person and friend. So, I don't [00:33:00] know, I have a lot on my plate. I'm just excited to have new challenges every day. You know, that's what gets me out of bed in the morning is the opportunity to have a new challenge.

[00:33:08] Anna Stoecklein: That was definitely a thread through your book as soon as you got over one mountain, figuratively and literally, yeah, what's the next one? What's the next one? In the book, you really painted the picture and you're describing it now of how you're bringing that energy, that mindset from the mountain to business now. And to production, so you're creating films. Yeah. You've got a lot of different hats on. It's really cool to see. We're all excited to see what comes next with Lindsey Vonn.

[00:33:36] Lindsey Vonn: Thank you. I appreciate it. I'm excited too.

[00:33:39] Anna Stoecklein: And with the Rock, shout out to the Rock.

[00:33:43] Lindsey Vonn: Shout out.

[00:33:44] Anna Stoecklein: I'm curious what, just speaking directly, perhaps to girls, to women out. What you would say about finding their confidence and not hiding, but fostering their competitiveness? [00:34:00] Anything you might say to them?

[00:34:02] Lindsey Vonn: I mean, I think the number one thing is just being authentically you and understanding that you're special and powerful the way you are. It's really looking inside yourself and figuring out, okay, what do I want to achieve and how do I get there? And how do I believe in myself?

[00:34:18] Lindsey Vonn: Because honestly, if you don't believe in yourself, who's gonna believe in you? So it starts from within. It starts from you believing in yourself and fostering that confidence. For me, journaling really helped because oftentimes I didn't have anyone to talk to on the road. So I got really good at having a conversation with myself and what do I want and what do I need, and how do I keep an emotional balance? How do I stay competitive?

[00:34:43] Lindsey Vonn: So I think it starts from within in order to find that confidence and competitiveness to get you where you wanna go in life.

[00:34:50] Anna Stoecklein: Amazing. And anything else that you would say in general about getting involved in sports or staying, as you mentioned, there's a dropout [00:35:00] that can occur at younger ages.

[00:35:01] Lindsey Vonn: I think that understanding that failure is the best tool in your toolbox is so important. Failure is what teaches us what to work on, how to be better. It's not a indicator of when to stop or to quit. It's an indicator of how to get better. And I think that the more people and kids especially understand that the more we can foster that, the more we're gonna develop determined and gritty young kids.

[00:35:30] Anna Stoecklein: I love that. I love that. So what were some of the biggest challenges that you came up against, whether that was a quote unquote failure or another kind of challenge that you had to overcome?

[00:35:41] Lindsey Vonn: I had a lot. I think most people know me, I guess for my injuries and I know a lot of people that would've retired after any number of my injuries. I try to always look at it as a positive. What can I learn? How can I be a stronger athlete? And while after every [00:36:00] injury, I wasn't as strong physically, I became stronger mentally, and I used that to my advantage.

[00:36:06] Lindsey Vonn: I studied tape, I figured out a different way of tactically approaching the courses so that I could mitigate the pain in my body and to be able to physically do what I needed to do, I had to outsmart my competition. I could no longer physically out-ski them. I had to outsmart them. And I had a lot of challenges and also a lot of distractions off the mountain. But again, I use that as fuel. Anytime someone that told me that I couldn't do something, I used it, I internalized it, I bottled it up. And then when I was in the starting gate, I let it go.

[00:36:42] Lindsey Vonn: And again, that's something I teach in my Foundation because a lot of people, if someone says you can't do something or you're not good enough, they say, oh, you're right, I'm not. I'm gonna quit. And that's the wrong response. The response is why do you think that? What can I do better? And [00:37:00] I'm gonna show you and I'm gonna prove not just to you, but to myself that I can do it.

[00:37:05] Lindsey Vonn: And so I think that's a really important message and something that has really been, I think probably the strongest tool set and my repertoire is just being able to say, if someone says that I can't or says that I'm not good enough, I use that to my advantage.

[00:37:19] Anna Stoecklein: Yeah, I think that's a great mindset to have and yeah your injuries, we won't have time to get into those. But ooh.

[00:37:26] Lindsey Vonn: The list is probably longer than my achievements, but it's okay.

[00:37:29] Anna Stoecklein: Oh, yes. Yeah. I mean, reading about them just made my body hurt. I think you might have said this in the book, maybe you don't have a fear center in your brain. Do we think that's the case? Cuz it's both flying down the mountain at eight, all everything we described, but then also having these serious injuries and then coming back and doing it again.

[00:37:50] Lindsey Vonn: Yeah, I mean, I think it goes back to the fact that I love what I do. I've never been afraid. I love going fast and that's something that I think is ingrained in me. [00:38:00] I never hold on to my failures, so when I'm in the starting end, I don't think about what I did before. I don't think about crashing or what could happen. I focus on being in the moment and being confident in what I believe I can achieve.

[00:38:16] Lindsey Vonn: And I feel like fear is a really useless emotion because it prohibits us from living, from pushing ourselves. And if I was afraid, I would never have won anything because I crash so often that I would never have won anything. But I've always just felt like I wanna push myself, I wanna live. And yes, there is a risk factor. I could actually die or be paralyzed. It's happened many times in my sport. But I'm out there doing what I love to do and I wouldn't wanna be anywhere else.

[00:38:49] Lindsey Vonn: I always just had that mentality, and I think I also got it from my mom. My mom had a stroke when she had me, and she wasn't able to ski with me [00:39:00] or ride a bike. She had a problem with her ankle and she struggled with her balance, and so I watched her try every sport and she failed, but she kept trying.

[00:39:11] Lindsey Vonn: And she never got discouraged. She was always positive, and that's always the mindset that I had and also the mindset that I was lucky to have an opportunity to get back up there, to get back in the starting gate because my mom did not have that luxury. So I think it's that perspective that I've always had from her that's also allowed me to always be thankful for the opportunity and not to be afraid of what could happen.

[00:39:38] Anna Stoecklein: Another positive role model. So we're getting towards the end of our time. Is there anything else that you would like to say, talk about that we haven't covered?

[00:39:49] Lindsey Vonn: I don't know. I think the older I get, the more I realize how important strong female role models are and how big of an impact they can make. People like [00:40:00] Malala, how big of a voice she's had. And I met her recently and I'm just so inspired by people like that. And you realize how big of an impact one person can make on the world.

[00:40:11] Lindsey Vonn: And I read a statistic that if you impact 10 people around you, and those 10 people impact 10 people, in three generations, we will have impacted the entire world. I just keep that in perspective of how can we encourage people, children, and how to help them encourage others, and just to keep passing that movement forward and how we can be better as human beings.

[00:40:38] Anna Stoecklein: Incredible. Well, that is a lovely note to end on though, I do always like to ask this last question. If people take one thing away from this conversation with you today, what would you want it to be?

[00:40:52] Lindsey Vonn: There's so many things.

[00:40:54] Anna Stoecklein: That's a hard one.

[00:40:55] Lindsey Vonn: I think to always believe in yourself is the most important thing. No matter who you [00:41:00] are, where you wanna go, what you wanna be, you have to start with yourself and to believe in yourself.

[00:41:05] Anna Stoecklein: Amazing. Lindsey Vonn, thank you so much for being here today, having this conversation with me and just being the incredible person that you are. We're excited to see everything that you do in the future.

[00:41:20] Lindsey Vonn: I appreciate that. Thank you so much. I appreciate you having me on.

[00:41:24] Overdub: Thanks for listening. If you’ve enjoyed this episode, and think we need more of women’s stories in the world, be sure to share with a friend! And subscribe, rate and review on Apple, Spotify or wherever you listen to help us beat those pesky algorithms.

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[00:42:08] Overdub: And in exchange, you’ll receive my eternal gratitude and good nights sleep knowing you are helping to finally change the story of mankind to the story of humankind.

[00:42:19] Overdub: This episode was produced and hosted by me, Anna Stoecklein.

[00:42:23] Overdub: It was edited by Maddy Searle. With communications support by Jo Cummings.A special thanks to Amanda Brown, Kate York, and Dan Kendall for their ongoing production support and invaluable advising.

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