Racing downhill, and winning, has come easy for Lindsey Vonn. The uphill battle against depression, and an unhappy marriage, has been a bigger challenge.
Vonn, 28, the most successful female ski racer in American history, told People magazine that depression, which runs in her family, surfaced after her 2002 Olympic debut amid her parents’ marital problems. She currently takes an anti-depressant to manage her symptoms, she said.
In November, Vonn was hospitalized due to a stomach illness which her agent Lewis Kay said was completed unrelated to the depression.
“Everything about my life seemed so perfect to people. But I struggle like everyone else,” Vonn told the magazine. She said that at one point in 2008, “I couldn’t get out of bed anymore. I felt hopeless, empty, like a zombie.”
At that point, she sought medical treatment. Within a month, she said she felt like a “different person.”
Vonn also said now she is happier than she’s been in the past. She filed for divorce late last year from Thomas Vonn, her former manager and coach, who is nine years her senior. Her marriage led to a six-year estrangement from her father, a relationship which recently has been restored.
“Everyone knows marriage is tough,” she said. “But it just wasn’t working, and it was making me miserable. Nothing bad happened, but there was just unhappiness. That’s the only way I can even describe it — unhappy.”
“Divorce doesn’t fit my cookie-cutter image,” she told People. “But I got to the point where I said, ‘I don’t care if I ever win another race; I just can’t live like this.’ ”
Now, Vonn said “All the parts of my life are finally in sync. I accept who I am, and I’m moving forward.”
Vonn is the only American woman to have captured downhill gold at the Olympics and the only American woman with four World Cup overall titles. She has a U.S. record 57 World Cup wins.
In addition to her 2010 Olympic downhill gold and super G bronze, she holds five world championship medals including two gold in 2009. During the 2012 season, she reset the women’s all-time World Cup point total record to 1,980, falling 20 points shy of Hermann Maier’s men’s record.
On Thursday in Val D’isere, France, Vonn went off course in her World Cup downhill training run and finished 48th. Vonn will seek to extend her perfect record of four consecutive wins in speed races this season in the downhill on Friday. She is third in the overall standings.