Lindsey Vonn, one of the most heralded Alpine skiers of all time, was stunned by the responses she received since commenting last week that if she were to win a gold medal in the Pyeongchang Olympics she would not visit President Donald Trump’s White House.
In an Instagram post, Vonn wrote that the reaction “opened my eyes” to divisions in the country and said “it is hurtful to read comments where people are hoping I break my neck or that God is punishing me for being ‘anti-Trump.’”
Vonn, who hurt her back last weekend during a World Cup super-G race in Switzerland, is aiming to compete in her fourth Olympics and told CNN that she hopes “to represent the people of the United States, not the president. I take the Olympics very seriously and what they mean and what they represent, what walking under our flag means in the Opening Ceremonies. And, you know, I want to represent our country well, and I don’t think there are a lot of people currently in our government that do that.”
Pressed to say whether she would visit the White House, she responded: “Absolutely not. Nope. But I have to win to be invited, so – no, actually, I think every U.S. team member is invited. So, no, I won’t go.”
Vonn has won 77 World Cup races and Ingemar Stenmark’s record of 86 is within reach. For all that, though, she has only two Olympic gold medals.
She wrote on Instagram that “the point that I was trying to articulate is that all Olympic athletes represent their nation as a whole, and are not representatives of their government or any specific political figure or party. None of us work tirelessly for years on end to compete in the Olympics on behalf of Democrats or Republicans. The Olympics are a nonpolitical event, a chance for everyone to put aside their differences and be on the same ‘team.’ That does not mean that Olympic athletes don’t have political opinions. As an American, I am extremely proud that our great nation was founded on principals and ideals where citizens can express our opinions openly. It is a privilege that some others around the world don’t have.
“I am proud to be an American, and I want our country to continue to be a symbol of hope, compassion, inclusion and world unity. My travels around the world have recently made clear that this is no longer how people view the United States. You cannot pick up a newspaper or turn on the TV in Europe without noticing how people are questioning our direction. It seems to me that we must lead with understanding and strive for unity in our relationships throughout the world.”
Vonn got personal then, adding that “all of this is much bigger” than her sport.
“As for myself, my recent comments opened up my eyes as to how divided we are right now. It is hurtful to read comments where people are hoping I break my neck or that God is punishing me for being ‘anti-Trump.’ We need to find a way to put aside our differences and find common ground in communicating. Is it wrong to hope for a better world?
“All of this is much bigger than skiing and the Olympics. I am going to take the next two months to focus on what I can do and right now that is competing for my country. In doing that, I will be hoping that we Americans can still be that “shining city on a hill.”