Lindsey Vonn Says Naomi Osaka ‘Shined A Huge Global Light’ On Mental Health


Lindsey Vonn is known as one of the greatest Olympic athletes in the United States. While the Winter Olympics have been her pace, she is equally excited about the return of the Summer Olympics, especially after being postponed for a year, thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The Olympics are a special time,” Vonn says of his time with the United States in four Olympics from 2002 to 2018. Vonn, who also won three medals and gold in alpine skiing in Vancouver in 2010, called the opening ceremony, “a deep and moving experience, unlike anything else.”

Vonn, 36, retired from ski racing in 2019 and ended her career as the most successful skier of all time, with a record 20 World Cup titles to her name and 82 total wins. .

But one thing that many American fans may not know about Vonn is that she is a strong believer in mental health.

As the Summer Games in Tokyo approach, Vonn has partnered with Olympic partner TOP and insurance provider Allianz, as a global ambassador to help highlight the importance of mental health. Allianz announced on Olympic Day, June 23, the Allianz Support Dog Squad program. The effort was launched to provide what he calls an extra boost of emotional support for world-class Olympic athletes. Vonn intervened on the program.

“I have always been, on a personal level, a big supporter of mental health and a dog lover too. Vonn has two rescue dogs as well as a King Charles Spaniel named Lucy.

“There is definitely a difference that you feel as an athlete when dogs are present. They have a special ability to help you relieve the anxiety and the great pressure that comes with such a huge event. ”

Vonn adds that athletes preparing for their first Olympics often experience a much higher level of anxiety just from competing on the world’s biggest stage. The four-time Olympian also said a big part of her success comes from having her best friend on her trail. Specifically, Lucy accompanied Vonn to a number of ski competitions in the later years of his career.

“Lucy was there for me at the 2018 Olympics so I know I first saw the difference dogs can make from a mental health standpoint.”

A week ago, I spoke with Vonn by phone, and she spoke about the big footprint of the Olympics and how important it is to the athletes. She also had a lot to say about mental health and how it affects an athlete’s ability to compete at the highest level.

Andy Frye: The Summer Olympics are back. What kind of preparation did you undertake when preparing to compete in the Winter Games?

Lindsey Vonn: My preparation was pretty much the same as anything (anything else), but the difference with the Olympics is the pressure. This puts pressure on most of the competition for a medal. And to prepare for that, I always thought that the best preparation for the Olympics was my training and competition in and for the World (Ski) Championships.

Being ready for a particular moment is all about being there and not letting your mind drift away from you. If you are not present at this time, you may be missing out on an opportunity that you have worked for all your life.

For me, I worked on it, but it wasn’t always the easiest part to manage. I didn’t have a sports psychologist, I just figured out how to control my mental state through trial and error. Now, athletes have more resources to learn to deal with this pressure.

AF: Recently, we saw Naomi Osaka choose to withdraw from Roland-Garros. Much of the reaction seemed to back her up.

Are we in a different situation now when it comes to mental health, athletes and sports?

Vonn: I think we’re a lot further along in the process of making mental health a talkable topic. It was certainly not a topic that everyone was talking about when I was competing in the Games – even with my family – let alone publicly, even just in 2012. So I think this process of change will give athletes a lot more. of resources. and support. I think mental health has been largely overlooked.

I think what Naomi did was bring mental health and support issues to light and normalize them. And I hope every athlete can seek support without being ashamed.

AF: You are arguably one of the best skiers of all time, but you have had role models as a young skier. Who inspired you as a young athlete?

Vonn: Picabo Street was really my idol growing up. Skiing at that time wasn’t usually on TV except for the Olympics, and I was lucky that she came to my small town in Minnesota. I got an autograph from her, and that’s really what made me want to be an Olympian.

Besides Picabo, there are people like Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras, Roger Federer and Monica Seles, who have always inspired me to watch as athletes. My dad always loved watching tennis on the weekends, and I love the sport and also watching the athletes at their best.

AF: You’ve won world championships and medals galore. But, in your words, what makes the Olympics so special for athletes?

Vonn: The Olympics are special for many reasons. Just like at the world championships, you also represent your country. But I felt a certain level of patriotism when I was with my teammates, American teammates of all sports. To be there, to be part of the opening ceremonies, for any athlete, is very moving.

And then knowing that so many Americans are looking at you, behind you and supporting you, it makes it such an inspiring thing to be a part of it.

***

Read Frye’s interview with Olympian tennis star Andy Murray here.


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