After a series of devastating knee injuries, Lindsey Vonn ended her Olympic hopes in early January 2014, saying in a statement: "The reality has sunk in that my knee is just too unstable to compete at this level." We applaud Vonn for taking care of her health--even if it means delaying her dreams. And we'll count her down but certainly not out, because this athlete is fearless. Learn how Vonn faces her fear and embraces happiness. Then go behind the scenes at her video shoot.
by Erin Bried
How can you be so fearless, not just skiing but also in your life?
What's the point in being afraid? I've crashed a million times. If you go around being afraid, you're never going to enjoy life. You have only one chance, so you've got to have fun. Getting divorced [last January, from her former coach, Thomas Vonn] was the scariest thing I've ever done. I'd been dating him since I was 18, and I realized I wasn't happy anymore. I wasn't sure if I was strong enough to be on my own, but I found out I am. Now I'm in charge of my whole life. It's terrifying--and exciting. It gave me a lot more self-confidence and a greater sense of self-worth.
Have you ever felt insecure when it comes to your body?
Definitely. It was hard to go to the Met ball [last May], with people who eat lettuce and a Diet Coke for dinner. It's difficult to be at events with a room full of women who weigh half as much as you do. That's always tough. I don't envy them, though, because so many of them are skinny-fat. They have more cellulite than most people. I feel like I need to give them a cheeseburger. It's sexy and beautiful to be strong.
See more: Easy Ways to Slim Down in 14 Days!
You struggled with depression for years. How do you feel now?
Normal again, now that I'm on medication. I have sad days, but they're rare and the lows aren't as low. [This past year], I've been the happiest I've ever been. A part of me is missing when I can't ski, but I've learned there's more to define me and make me happy, like stand-up paddling and Jet Skiing--things I'd never done before. Or being with people I love and just enjoying life.
Speaking of which, what's the best advice your boyfriend, Tiger Woods, has ever given you?
He's helped me stay patient through rehab. Golf is all about patience--one tournament is four days long, 18 holes a day. He helped me take it one day at a time. I'd say, "Why can't I do this? I want to!" And he'd say, "You'll get your chance. It will come." We're good for each other. I don't know what he's learned from me, to be honest. But we push each other and help each other when we're down.
Do you two get competitive?
We're pretty competitive in everything we do: tennis, Ping-Pong, who wakes up earlier. I lose more than I win, but I try! He always beats me walking to the car.
The February issue of SELF hits newsstands February 28, 2014.