JEONGSEON, South Korea – Lindsey Vonn checked the scoreboard and saw her dream of winning another Olympic downhill wouldn’t become reality.
She blew a kiss to the sky to honor of her late grandfather, and then turned and saluted the crowd at the Jeongseon Alpine Centre.
A magical ending to a remarkable racing career wasn’t meant to be. Vonn didn’t win gold in her signature event at her final Olympics.
She had to settle for making Olympic history.
Vonn took bronze in the women’s downhill Wednesday to become the oldest woman at age 33 to win an Olympic Alpine medal.
“I wish I could keep going,” she said. “I wish it wasn’t my last Olympics but it is. I’m trying to accept that and deal with the emotions of that.”
Vonn finished the course in 1 minute 39.69 seconds — .47 slower than her close friend, gold medalist Sofia Goggia of Italy.
Vonn remained in second until Norway’s Ragnhild Mowinckel passed her for silver on the 19th run of the day with a time of 1:39.31.
Vonn lingered long after the podium ceremony to take photos with family members and U.S. Ski officials. She wanted to savor the moment.
“I am so thankful to be on the podium in what’s most likely my last Olympic downhill race,” Vonn said. “I’m really proud to have another medal.”
This is her third medal, along with her gold (downhill) and bronze (super-G) at the 2010 Vancouver Games.
Her career took many detours after that Olympics because of an assortment of injuries. A devastating knee injury kept her out of the 2014 Sochi Olympics and Vonn estimated she has spent the equivalent of three years rehabbing from various injuries.
“I’ve been in the fences so many times,” she said. “I know so many doctors on a first-name basis that it’s ridiculous. So if you need any medical care, let me know. I can hook you up with the right doctor.”
Vonn looked in top form coming into the downhill. She won three Olympic tuneup races and had strong training runs all week.
In her super-G race last week, a mistake on the final turn caused her to finish tied for sixth. Vonn described her race in the downhill as “clean,” though her coach, Chris Knight, thought she was a “touch tentative in the middle section [and] a couple of bobbles that I wasn’t expecting to see.”
“I didn’t make any mistakes,” Vonn said. “I didn’t ski stiff. I wasn’t nervous. I laid it all on the line.”
Vonn dedicated her Olympics to her late grandfather, Don Kildow, who died last November at age 88. Vonn became emotional after the race when asked about him.
“I wanted desperately to win for him,” she said. “I didn’t do that, but I won a bronze and I think he would still be proud of me.”
Vonn doesn’t plan to retire from racing just yet. Barring more injuries, she should break the World Cup record for victories next season. She currently has 81 wins, five behind Swedish legend Ingemar Stenmark.
Goggia, the downhill winner, paid Vonn the ultimate compliment after the race.
“She’s the greatest female skier,” Goggia said. “She had a wonderful career.”
A gold medal in her favorite event would have provided a perfect sendoff, but Vonn found it hard to be disappointed with a bronze, given everything she went through to be able to race in the Olympics again.
“I still feel like I’m on top of the world now,” she said, “because I’m out here doing what I love to do.”