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Lindsey Vonn On Olympic Gold

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

In Vancouver, one Olympic gold has already graced the neck of U.S. skier Lindsey Vonn. She won the gold in Vancouver in the women's downhill on Wednesday despite a painful shin injury she suffered during a training run two weeks ago.

Then yesterday, Vonn hooked a ski on a slalom gate in the super combined and wiped out. Lindsey Vonn has three Olympic events to go, but today is an off day, and she's taking some time to talk to us. Lindsey Vonn, welcome to the program.

Ms.�LINDSEY VONN (Olympic Skier): Hey, thanks for having me.

BLOCK: I was listening to one of the NBC analysts during your downhill run, and she pointed out that you seemed to be really favoring that injured leg, that you weren't carving or pressing really hard on that ski. Is that an intuitive thing, an instinctive thing or a deliberate thing as you're going?

Ms.�VONN: It just kind of happens. You know, I think this course is really especially challenging because it's so bumpy. It's really the worst kind of course condition you can have for my type of injury. I don't think I'm really favoring my leg, but sometimes it might happen subconsciously.

BLOCK: You were talking about the condition of the courses. There have been a whole lot of really bad crashes in these Alpine events, and your husband in particular, who's a former Olympic skier himself, has been really critical of the conditions and how the courses have been maintained. What do you think about that?

Ms.�VONN: You know, it's been tough up here. The weather has been, you know, definitely not cooperating with anyone. They could have done maybe a little bit better job of grooming the hill and making it smoother for the athletes. It's definitely challenging when you have a long course that's so bumpy, and then at the very end, you have a monstrous jump.

And I think that's a little bit dangerous, but you know, I'm not there on the hill every night when they're working, and I have to give them a little bit of a break, too. You know, it's not I know it's not always easy.

BLOCK: That monstrous jump at the bottom you mentioned was the cause of a bunch of crashes, including some of the top skiers, like Anja Pearson, during the downhill. They shaved that jump down for yesterday's event. Do you think they should've done that sooner?

Ms.�VONN: Yeah, I did, honestly. I mean, we only had one training run, but everyone knew after that training run that the jump was going to be huge and it's really dangerous to have such a big jump at the end of such a long course.

And I kind of foresaw this problem and wish that they would've taken it down earlier, but, you know, sometimes they just they don't want to do that. So I mean, as an athlete, you can't change the decisions of the people making the course. All you can do is ski your best on race day.

BLOCK: When you were a young skier, coming up, you idolized another great Olympic skier, Picabo Street, and there are a lot of young skiers watching you now in these Olympic Games. How conscious are you of yourself and your place as a role model?

Ms.�VONN: I'm definitely really conscious of that. I mean, I remember when I met Picabo Street, you know, how in awe I was of her and how much she inspired me, and I really hope to be that for young kids. I want to try to push kids to be involved in sports, and even if it's not ski racing, you know, just to be active and do what they love to do, and I think that's the most important message that you can send as an athlete.

BLOCK: We're talking about the message to send as an athlete, and I wanted to ask you about the photo shoot you did for Sports Illustrated in the swimsuit issue. You're posing on a mountaintop, in the snow in bikinis and sometimes in less than a full bikini. How did you make the decision to pose? You've come in for some criticism for that.

Ms.�VONN: You know, when they called me in the spring, I was honored. I'm not a skinny model. I am an athlete. I have muscles, and I think that it's great that I'm given the opportunity to show that.

I mean, it's a lot different body image than, you know, what's normally out there, and so I think just getting that image out there, I think it's a good opportunity, and I was really proud to be in that magazine.

BLOCK: Lindsey Vonn, thanks and congratulations.

Ms.�VONN: Thank you, appreciate it.

BLOCK: That's U.S. skier and women's downhill gold medalist Lindsey Vonn. Her next shot at the podium will come in tomorrow's Super-G competition. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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