Winter Olympics 2018: Skier Lindsey Vonn bids farewell to quadrennial event, promises to chase record of most World Cup wins
'It's been a great ride. I'll take a lot of great memories with me. When you're older you have a different appreciation for life and the experiences you've had,' she said.
Lindsey Vonn bowed out of her fourth Winter Olympics with a heavy heart Thursday having failed to medal in the alpine combined, but promising to ski on until she breaks the World Cup win record.
The American made her Olympic debut aged 17 in Salt Lake City in 2002, competed in Turin in 2006, won Olympic gold in the downhill and super-G bronze at the 2010 Games, but missed Sochi through injury.
After battling a series of devastating injuries, she came to South Korea with few expectations.
But while Vonn failed to finish the slalom of the combined event, won by Switzerland's Michelle Gisin, she leaves with a downhill bronze, having also finished sixth in the super-G.
As one of the most recognisable sportswomen in the world, Vonn has brought more than a little stardust to the slopes and the absence of Tiger Woods's ex-girlfriend from the Olympics will be sorely felt.
"I'm just sad," said Vonn, now 33. "I'm a racer, I love racing and the Olympics are the pinnacle of our sport and I love it. It's a totally different experience. I'm going to miss it a lot."
Vonn, who faced accusations of being anti-American following criticism of US President Donald Trump, insists she is 99.9 percent sure not to compete in the 2022 Beijing Olympics.
"I wish I could still continue on and tell you I'm going to race in four years and be a competitive threat, but unfortunately that's not the way it is," she said.
Vonn added, "It's been a great ride. I'll take a lot of great memories with me. When you're older you have a different appreciation for life and the experiences you've had."
Vonn admitted it had come as no surprise that she struggled in the slalom of the combined given she does not even train the technical event to save her creaking knees.
'Body won't cooperate'
"I was fighting as hard as I could," she said. "I used to win slaloms but now my body doesn't cooperate with me as much as I would like.
"It's frustrating because in my mind I know what I'm capable of and my body doesn't follow," she added.
"After a certain amount of injuries you just can't get back to the level you were at.
"I'm not where I used to be and I never will be, and that's probably the hardest thing for me to take."
But Vonn insisted she would break Ingemar Stenmark's World Cup record of 86 wins.
"I'm not going to quit until I get that record, that's for sure, no matter how much pain I'm in," said the American, currently five victories short on 81.
"But I really hope it only takes one more season because it would be difficult for me to continue on after that."
Vonn's teammate Mikaela Shiffrin — who has already notched up 41 World Cup wins and won last season's overall title — claimed silver in the combined to go with her giant slalom gold.
The 22-year-old finished a disappointing fourth in the defence of her slalom title.
"She's over 10 years younger than I am, never been through any injuries and has a totally different perspective on life than I do," the four-time overall World Cup champion Vonn said of the natural successor to her alpine ski crown.
"I wish I had that body again," she added. "I wish I could be pulling off the slalom turns she's doing right now, because I used to be able to do that. But I'm at a different stage of my career."