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US skiing star Lindsey Vonn wins Princess of Asturias Award for Sports
RECORD-BREAKING ski ace Lindsey Vonn has been confirmed for a Princess of Asturias Award in Sports, three months after retiring from the slopes for good due to knee injuries.
The 34-year-old US national (pictured) is the sixth woman to win this prestigious award, and the first in 10 years after Russian javelin star Yelena Isinbayeva – who was also the first female in a decade to gain the Sports prize after German tennis champion Steffi Graf took it in 1999.
Prior to Lindsey, Yelena and Steffi, the only three women to have netted the Princess of Asturias Award for Sports are Wimbledon winner Arantxa Sánchez-Vicario (1998), Hassiba Boulmerka (1995) and yet another tennis star, Martina Navratilova.
Lindsey's retirement from skiing may not have been her personal choice, but she had little left to achieve: an as-yet unsurpassed 82 World Cup victories, eight World Championship medals - two golds, three silvers and three bronzes – and a gold and two bronze Winter Olympic medals.
Born in St Paul in the State of Minnesota, where she started learning to ski, and having carried out her long professional training in Vail, Colorado including many years under the instruction of Olympic gold medallist Picabo Street, Lindsey Vonn is widely considered to be the best female skier in history.
Her World Cup début was at the age of just 16, at the ski station of Park City in the State of Utah, then her Winter Olympic première was at Salt Lake City in 2002, aged 17.
She was only 19 when she won her first World Cup, in 2004, on the slopes of Lake Louise in Canada – the venue she considers to be her 'good-luck charm' after scooping up 18 of her 82 World Cup victories there.
Lindsey's second Olympic Games were in Torino, north-western Italy in 2006, but her dream of taking home a medal ended abruptly with an accident in training which left her with severe bruising and being rushed to hospital.
Two days later, however, she was back in competition and came eighth in her class, earning her an Olympic Special Prize.
Lindsey's first serious knee problems started in 2007, after her first two World Championship medals, but they did not stop her from snaffling another eight World Cup victories and four World Cups – a record only beaten in the women's category by Austria's Annemarie Moser-Pröll.
Ms Vonn's third Winter Olympics were in Vancouver, Canada in 2010, when she finally graced the podium with a bronze.
No other woman in skiing has beaten her 82 first places at World Cup level, and only one man – Sweden's Ingemar Stenmark – has done so.
At the 2016 World Cup, Lindsey broke the record set by Frau Moser-Pröll and hitherto unbeaten since the 1970s, by notching up victory number 63 – her predecessor having been top for over 40 years with 62 wins.
Lindsey Vonn, off the piste, also runs her eponymous young women's sports, education and personal development foundation.
Her trophy cabinet has been stuffed full to bursting in the last decade, with the addition of the US Olympic Committee Sportswoman of the Year in 2010, the US national Excellence in Sports and Best Athlete prizes, and two Best Sportswoman Laureus, all in that same year, plus the Spirit of Sport Prize this year.
Lindsey's most recent predecessors in the Princess of Asturias Sports Award are Italy's Reinhold Messner, the first man to climb to the peaks of the 14 highest mountains in the world, and Poland's Krzysztof Welicki, the first man to crown Everest in winter, both of whom won the prize last year.
Vonn was chosen out of 20 candidates of eight nationalities and hers is the fourth Princess of Asturias Award to be confirmed for this year, although the presentation ceremony will be in the autumn.
Other than Lindsey, the remaining 2019 Princess of Asturias Awards confirmed so far are those for International Cooperation, for Salman Khan of the Khan Academy; for Arts, given to 94-year-old British theatre director Peter Brook; and for Communication and Humanities, presented to Madrid's El Prado art museum.
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