12:34 PM CST, November 29, 2011
Lindsey Vonn still intends to be known as Lindsey Vonn even after her divorce from Thomas Vonn becomes official.
The question now is whether she will continue to ski like the same Lindsey Vonn who became the world's most successful active racer and the greatest U.S. skier in history during her four-year marriage.
That is an issue because the former Lindsey Kildow consistently gave her husband enormous credit for that success.
Vonn described Thomas in terms that made him a combination of coach, sports psychologist, logistics coordinator, advisor, booster and factotum. It undoubtedly will be a significant adjustment for her to deal with different people in those roles.
The couple confirmed Monday they have begun divorce proceedings. She said in a statement she now will use U.S. ski team coaches.
Tuesday, Vonn ripped through a downhill training run in Lake Louise, Canada, at a speed that made her fastest of 61 starters and suggested nothing had changed once she put on skis.
Since marrying Thomas Vonn Sept. 29, 2007, she won her two Olympic medals (gold and bronze), her two world titles, her three World Cup overall season titles, her four World Cup downhill season titles, her three World Cup super-G season titles and both her two World Cup combined season titles. She won her first two world championship medals just after they were engaged.
Over that time, she also has become the first U.S. skier to achieve major celebrity and name recognition (plus accompanying wealth) beyond her sport. Having done all that while being known as Lindsey Vonn, it makes perfect sense from a marketing standpoint for her not to change that brand.
Here is a sampling of the things Vonn has said about Thomas' contribution to her achievements:
"I'm so lucky. Thomas helps me in every way."
"I'm definitely more successful as Vonn. It is largely because of my husband that I won the overall last year. Together we make a great team."
"It's my secret weapon, having him help me mentally."
"I was so nervous before the race. I asked my husband to come with me to the start. I've never done that before. He knew what to say. He made me laugh and used words that motivated me."
"He's the reason why I'm so successful in the sport. I couldn't ask for anyone as great as him."
While those quotes come from 2008 and 2009, Vonn still was talking about the importance of her husband's role in early November, after she had opened the season with a giant slalom victory to become the second U.S.. skier with wins in all five Alpine disciplines. She told the Associated Press that Thomas was the one who said "no" to keep her from stretching herself too thin with commercial and public relations engagements.
"He knows me really well, knows when I've had enough," she said.
Through her publicist, who confirmed she will keep the married name, Vonn declined a request to talk about the impact the split could have on her skiing.
She likely will be asked about it while training this week and racing this weekend in World Cup Super-G and downhill races at Lake Louise, Canada, a place where she has had five wins and three seconds in 10 races during her marriage to Vonn, a former World Cup skier. (She also had three wins and two seconds in the last nine Lake Louise races before tying the knot.)
On her Facebook page Tuesday, Vonn wrote:
"I sincerely appreciate all of the kind words and support. I'm really happy to be skiing downhill this week in Lake Louise. I can't wait to go fast again!"
No one should jump to any conclusions should Vonn miss the podium this week, especially since she withdrew from Sunday's slalom in Aspen, Colo., citing a tender back.
But it would not be a surprise to see her keep skiing as brilliantly as she has the past four years.
She certainly did just that in Tuesday's downhill training run, ripping down the course a whopping 1.67 seconds faster -- that's a light year in skiing -- than anyone else. While results of training runs must be put in perspective, since skiers often are testing things rather than going all-out, there is no doubt Vonn made a statement with this one, hitting 78 miles per hour at the second speed check.
At 27, with a decade on the World Cup circuit, Vonn clearly has grown out of the confidence issues she frequently cited in the past, when her fierce competitiveness often gave way to emotional fragility, notwithstanding her fearless attitude when it came to risking life and limb. The years of race experience that have helped hone her talent to a gilt edge will still be with her.
Lindsey Vonn seemed on her way to an excellent ski career as Lindsey Kildow. She came of age as an extraordinary skier with Thomas Vonn at her side.
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