ALPENSIA, South Korea — Oh, the Olympic paparazzi will love this: Lindsey Vonn brought the current love of her life to the Winter Games.
It’s a dog. That’s way better than lugging around Tiger Woods in your Vonn-tourage, don’t you think?
Among the 244 U.S. athletes participating in PyeongChang, none is more famous, more photographed or more scrutinized than Vonn. Before walking with teammates in the opening ceremonies, the 33-year old skier got misty-eyed, while contemplating her final three races on the Olympic stage, and the fact her late grandfather, who died in November, can’t be here alongside her during this quest.
“I want so badly to do well for him,” Vonn said Friday, her voice cracking with emotion. “I miss him so much. He has been such a big part of my life. I really had hoped he’d be alive to see me. But I know he’s watching. And I know that he’s going to help me. And I want to win for him.”
But, after Vonn dabbed away her tears with a tissue, know who stole the show at a packed press conference?
Lucy. She’s a 2-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel that is bunking with Vonn during the Games.
“She’s a definitely a bigger star than me,” said Vonn, unabashedly making goo-goo eyes at Lucy, as her faithful companion sat at the foot of stage, where the greatest downhill racer in U.S. history took measure of all the big victories and painful injuries in her career.
Despite her astounding 81 victories on the World Cup circuit, the pressure is on Vonn in her fourth trip to the Winter Games, because she has stood on the Olympic podium only twice, claiming gold and bronze medals in Vancouver, eight long years ago.
And that’s why Lucy can be the X-factor in this quest for Olympic redemption. What’s the perfect antidote for the anxiety of a hard-charging, type-A athlete? Dog kisses.
It might be good to be queen of the mountain. But it’s often lonely at the top. Lucy is a ski-racer’s best friend.
“She is usually in the hotel room whenever I’m racing. She enjoys sleeping the majority of the day. I always have her with me,” said Vonn, whose dog has been her constant companion for the past 18 months, from her home in Vail to stops throughout Europe on the World Cup circuit. “It’s extremely lonely on the road … Being in a hotel room is often times is just extremely difficult. So I got Lucy. She travels with me everywhere.”
In the most human of ways, world-class athletes are not so different than you or me. In the biggest, most stressful moments of life, the simplest things can make us smile.
A dog wags it tail, whether you bring home a gold medal or not.
A dog sits, stays and listens, as if what you say truly matters.
A dog, which never bites the hand that feeds it, is more trustworthy than a Tiger.
When Vonn’s trip to South Korea turned into a 24-hour ordeal of that special frustration that is an airline delay, there was a moment or two when she wondered if bringing Lucy along for the ride was a great idea.
“But I figured, she’s always with me,” Vonn said, “so I need her for the most important event.”
Her Olympic history is covered in more crashes than glory. Trying to be Lindsey Vonn, superstar, hasn’t worked so swell for her at the Games.
This time, Vonn is taking a different approach.
It’s just a girl and her dog on a great big Olympic adventure. Worrying less. Wagging tail more. That’s usually a good strategy. For the ski hill. Or life.