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19 Jan 2012
Innsbruck 2012 , YOG

Lindsey Vonn's surprise visit to Patscherkofel

Success for young athletes is not about leaving the Youth Olympic Games with a medal. It's about leaving it with experience, said Youth Olympics Ambassador Lindsey Vonn (USA). "It's not necessarily about whether you win or lose," said Vonn at an alpine ski event on Patscherkofel mountain. "It's that you see who you're competing against and that there are a lot of other international competitors out there."

"That's something you can't get from just any other race. You have to be able to see the international field and that's the most important part."

One of five Youth Olympic ambassadors - including 2010 gold medalists Yuna Kim (KOR), Sidney Crosby (CAN), 2006 gold medalist Benjamin Raich (AUT) and also Kevin Rolland (FRA) - Vonn arrived in Patcherkofel near Innsbruck to watch young American skier Alex Leever compete in the men's giant slalom.

She came to support those who hope to become the next ski star. "I'm not just involved with the Youth Olympic Games to say that I'm involved with the Youth Olympic Games. I want to have an impact," said Vonn.

Just like American alpine ski legend Picabo Street had an impact on Vonn. "Picabo Street was my role model going up," said Vonn. "I met her when I was nine years old at an autograph signing. She's just been such an inspiration. She was really the reason why I wanted to be an Olympian, and I hope that I can be like Picabo and motivate and inspire some kids." It appears to be working.

Reaching the bottom of his first run, a mesmerized Leever was met by Vonn. Then came cheers of kids on the mountain, chatting "Lindsey. Lindsey." These Games are just the beginning, said Vonn predicting the take-off of the Youth Olympics: "The longer these [Games] are around, the more excited that's built around them, the more nations will send their best athletes."

"It's a great experience," said Vonn, "but I think this is going to be a premier event the longer it's around."

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