Though she left Minnesota during childhood to pursue a skiing dream that would take her all around the world and to the height of fame, Lindsey Vonn remains, quite simply, one of us.
Evidence can be gathered on numerous fronts to back that assertion, but only one thing really matters.
When asked the one place she wants to go during her frequent visits back to visit family in Minnesota, Vonn barely hesitated.
"MOA. Why wouldn't you want to go there?" Vonn said of the giant mall. "I mean, I don't really want to go there, but I do at the same time. It's the love-hate. I really need to."
Vonn, at least in theory, has more time for such things after her retirement from competitive skiing three years ago.
But the same drive and perseverance that led her to win four World Cup championships and an Olympic gold medal at the 2010 Games — a body of work that led to her induction in the Minnesota Sports Hall of Fame — continues to show up even as her racing days are over.
"I don't think I ever will be ready [for retirement]," said Vonn, 37. "I love skiing. I wouldn't have retired if my body hadn't given out. … I don't have a 'slow' button. It's all or nothing. It's kind of hard to manage. But I have found different ways to challenge myself in this next chapter, though it's not the same as downhill racing."
One recent project: Vonn's memoir, "Rise: My Story" was released in January. It chronicles her life story wrapped around a message of perseverance.
"It was hard to confront certain things. I think it was good to process and confront those things and kind of get past them and relive them for the good, the bad and the ugly," Vonn said. "I think it was really therapeutic to do it and great timing — to close the chapter of my skiing career."
It was a career, launched famously, on the slopes of Buck Hill in Burnsville. And even though she went away to conquer bigger slopes, nobody ever really leaves home. When she's not at Mall of America on her visits …
"My mom just loves going to Panera," Vonn said with a laugh. "Every time I'm like, 'Can we go somewhere different?' She's like, nope, Panera. So that is what I do when I go to Minnesota."