Lindsey Vonn - Olympic achievement through hard work
Lindsey Vonn – Olympic achievement through hard work. Image from

Of the many champions at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver Canada, the story of Minnesota’s 26-year-old Lindsey Vonn is one that inspires me.

Today Lindsey Vonn won the downhill gold on the 2,939-meter course at Whistler Creekside with a time of only 1:44.19, beating teammate Julia Mancuso by over half a second.

She did this in spite of a major shin injury she received in a ski accident in practice only a couple of weeks prior to the event. She described the pain as “excruciating,” but took advantage of a weather delay in her event to heal as much as possible. It didn’t slow her down.

In fact, she was the first American woman to ever win downhill gold at the Olympics.

But her accolades don’t end there.

She was also the first American to win back-to-back overall World Cup championships in 2008 and 2009. She’s won the World Cup discipline championships in downhill back to back those years as well. She also won the Super G (the first American woman to do so).

With 31 World Cup wins in four events, two World Cup Championship gold medals, and two World Cup Championship silvers, she is the most successful American woman skier in World Cup history.

So what’s her secret? Lots of hard work.

Of the race, she commented, “I’ve worked so hard for this, and to be able to get the gold medal is so awesome. I’ve given up everything for this. It means everything to me. It’s why I work hard; it’s why I’m in the gym everyday.”

Looking back into Lindsey Vonn’s history, I found that she started skiing at age two. When she was six, she started skiing regularly on a small hill with a rope tow on the outskirts of Minneapolis, putting in hour after hour of practice.

Vonn learned the slalom at a place called Buck Hill. Sailer, the head coach and racing program director there, said that’s where she “built a foundation for her later success.” He commented, “At first start, she was very slow. She didn’t move very fast. But after about a month or so she started getting faster. She was a real good little workhorse. She came early and left at the very end.”

What inspires me is that she didn’t start out as the most naturally gifted skier. She wasn’t always the fastest. But she was committed and she stayed committed, putting in the time and effort she needed to become the most successful American woman skier.

What I learned from Lindsey Vonn:

One of the secrets to success is just plain old hard work.

If you’re not the best right now at what you do, that’s not what matters. What matters is that you stick to what you love. Hard work and perseverance can overcome whatever talent you may lack.

You don’t become great by setting meager goals, goals that would be easy. She thought big and worked hard.

Start small. Her hours on the little tow-rope hill created the foundation for her success. You don’t have to start big, just start small and start now.


Lindsey Vonn - achieving dreams and goals with hard work
Lindsey Vonn – gold medalist. Image from

Other inspiring olympic stories:

Petra Majdic - motivation through willpower
Petra Majdic overcomes four broken ribs and a punctured lung to win the bronze, proving that sheer willpower is stronger than nearly any adversity you can face.

motivation from the faces of 2010 Vancouver Olympic champions
I’m constantly inspired by the photos of Olympic champions in the moment of their success—expressions that encapsulate the culmination of years of hard work, living their dream and achieving their goals.

2010 Olympic Highlight - Seth Wescott
Seth Wescott wins the gold; six weeks ago he couldn’t even walk. Overcoming injury, the worst-possible starting gate, and an unthinkable gap that left him in last place through most of the race, he kept his focus, believed in himself, and succeeded. Read his story.

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