Legendary downhill skier Lindsey Vonn shed tears during a Winter Olympics news conference in PyeongChang on Friday after a reporter asked her about her late grandfather, Don Kildow, who passed in November at the age of 88. Vonn, 33, became the first American woman to win a downhill gold during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, but was forced to miss the last Olympics in Sochi due to a knee injury. In December, Vonn told CNN’s Alpine Edge that her grandfather had been the one who encouraged her to pursue the sport, and that without his influence she “wouldn’t be racing.”
“It’s really hard,” Vonn said on Friday, after CNN’s Coy Wire asked about how her memories of her grandfather resonated with her as she prepared to compete in South Korea. “I wish you wouldn’t have said that. It’s really hard for me not to cry. I just want so badly to do well for him and … I miss him so much.”
“He’s been such a big part of my life,” said Vonn, as tears formed in her eyes. “And I really 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’m going to win for him.”
Vonn competed while nursing an injury for a significant portion of the last racing season after she broke an arm and suffered nerve damage in her hand. Despite those setbacks, Vonn is a favorite to win gold at this year’s downhill event after she managed to win four World Cup races — including back-to-back downhills — coming into the Olympics. Vonn’s 81 World Cup victories ranks her as the second-most successful competitive skier of all-time for both men and women — trailing only behind Ingemar Stenmark’s 86 World Cup victories.
Watch video of Vonn’s press conference below.
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