Lindsey Vonn shed tears when she dedicated her recent Olympic Hall of Fame induction to her mother, whose courage in the face of Lou Gehrig’s disease is the latest example of strength she has set for her daughter.
The retired skiing legend became emotional as she spoke about her mother, Linda Krohn, who has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, during her induction speech into the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Hall of Fame on June 24. Krohn was in the audience at the ceremony at the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
"But mainly I would like to dedicate this to my mother," Vonn said. "She’s having her own battle right now with ALS. She’s taught me so much about strength and character, and it’s because of the example that my mother set that I was able to overcome whatever obstacle was thrown at me. Thank you, Mom."
ALS is a neurodegenerative disease with no cure that destroys the nerve cells that control the muscles that allow us to eat, breathe, walk and speak. Most people get the disease between 40 and 70, and the average survival time is two to five years, according to the ALS Association.
Vonn, 37, has long been inspired by her mother's strength. Krohn suffered a stroke while giving birth to Vonn, which left her with minor paralysis in her left leg that causes her to walk with a limp.
"She’s been so optimistic and positive my entire life, and I think that’s where I’ve gotten that optimism from," Vonn told PBS "NewsHour" in January. "Whenever I faced adversity, especially physical injury in the course of my career, I always looked to my mom for that level of optimism and positivity."
Krohn told The New York Times in 2010 that she rarely witnessed any of Vonn's early ski races because she could not walk up the mountain to see her.
“Seventy-five percent of the people die from the stroke I had,” Krohn told the Times. “I went in to have Lindsey on Oct. 18, 1984, and I don’t remember anything for the next seven weeks. After five days in the hospital, the nurse came by and said, ‘I’m sorry, but your baby needs to leave.’ I didn’t even understand I had a baby.”
Vonn noted to PBS "NewsHour" that her mother was never able to bike, run or ski with Vonn while she was growing up. Seeing her mother's perseverance helped inspire Vonn when she fought to recover from a series of devastating knee injuries and setbacks in her career.
"I just think, 'I can come back from my injuries and my mother could not,''' Vonn told PBS. "Having that perspective changed the way I approached injuries and the way I approached adversity."
Vonn is part of a star-studded 2022 Hall of Fame class as the most successful female ski racer in history. She is the only American woman to ever win Olympic gold in the downhill event and the only to win four World Cup titles. Her 82 World Cup victories are the most of any female skier in history.
She is part of a class that also includes the most decorated Olympian of all time, swimmer Michael Phelps. They are part of a class that features six other athletes, including soccer star Mia Hamm and figure skater Michelle Kwan, as well as two Olympic teams, two athletes in the legends category, one coach and one special contributor.