On Friday the most successful female alpine racer of all time announced that she will be cutting her final season short and retiring following the FIS World Ski Championships in Are, Sweden on Feb. 4-17.
The official announcement, posted on Vonn’s Instagram account, comes two weeks after Vonn first returned to racing this season at Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy following an early season training crash at Copper Mountain, Colo. in which she sustained a serious injury to her left knee.
Vonn and her team had hoped that the downhill and super-G races in Cortina would be the beginning of a final comeback push in chasing five more World Cup wins to bring Vonn’s career total to 87, thereby beating Ingemar Stenmark’s World Cup win record of 86 and making Vonn the most successful racer—male or female—of all time. But Vonn's performance in Cortina indicated a comeback may not be in the cards.
When Vonn took to the race course in Cortina, it was clear that despite extensive rehab following her October training injury, her body wasn’t performing the way Vonn needed it to to make her a serious podium contender.
Battling significant pain during both races, Vonn commented afterwards that she was considering immediate retirement, though she added that she had yet to make a concrete decision and would travel to the next speed races in Garmisch, Germany. However, the day before the first downhill training run in Garmisch, Vonn announced that she would not be racing in the events that weekend due to ongoing pain in her legs.
Read more: Injured Vonn Skips Garmisch Speed Events
Finally, on Friday, Vonn came to a heartbreaking conclusion and announced her official retirement to the world.
“It’s been an emotional two weeks making the hardest decision of my life, but I have accepted that I cannot continue ski racing,” Vonn wrote on Instagram. “I will compete at the World Championships in Downhill and SG next week in Åre, Sweden and they will be the final races of my career. I have always pushed the limits of ski racing and it has allowed me to have amazing success but also dramatic crashes…My body is broken beyond repair and it isn’t letting me have the final season I dreamed of. My body is screaming at me to STOP and it’s time for me to listen.”
“Honestly, retiring isn’t what upsets me,” she added. “Retiring without reaching my goal is what will stay with me forever. However, I can look back at 82 World Cup wins, 20 World Cup titles, 3 Olympic medals, 7 World Championship medals and say that I have accomplished something that no other woman in HISTORY has ever done, and that is something that I will be proud of FOREVER!”
Vonn will make her final racing appearances in the Åre on Tuesday, Feb. 5 in the super-G, and on Sunday, Feb. 10 in the downhill event. She will be joined there by fellow racing legend, Norwegian Aksel Lund Svindal, who has also announced his retirement following the World Championship events in Åre.
See the full schedule of World Championship events here.