Lindsey Vonn is competing for her second gold medal in this year’s Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. Her grandfather, who she credits for her love of skiing and much of her success, passed away late last year. Vonn has spoken about her grandfather’s influence, and how she wished he could be with her in South Korea.
The 2018 Winter Olympics kick off in PyeongChang, South Korea on Thursday afternoon (Wednesday evening in the United States). Vonn missed the 2014 Olympics in Sochi because of an injury, so this is likely her last Olympics to win a medal.
She recently won a Super-G race in Val d’Isere, France, which was emotional because her father, who had never seen her race, was there. Her Olympic races are sure to be emotional too, as she has said she’s racing for her grandfather.
Here’s everything you need to know:
1. He Fueled Lindsey’s Passion for Skiing and She Credits Him With Her Success
Vonn grew up skiing in Milton, Wisconsin at her grandparents’ house. Her grandfather Don Kildow built the first ski hill around Milton, then taught his children and eventually his grandchildren how to ski.
“If it weren’t for my grandfather i wouldn’t be racing. My grandfather taught my father how to ski and I think about him all the time, especially when I’m racing. I feel closer to him when I’m skiing,” she said in a CNN interview.
Vonn still visits Wisconsin every year.
2. He Was Stationed in South Korea, Near Where Lindsey Will Compete
Kildow was stationed in Korea for two years during the Korean war. He built roads as part of the Army Corps of Engineers.
“Now that the Olympics are coming up, it’s kind of a trip down memory lane. We’re talking about where he was stationed. It’s actually pretty close to where I’m going to be racing, so it’s really nice for me to actually talk about his stories with him now, and I’ve learned a lot,” Vonn told sportscaster Mike Tirico in an interview before her grandpa died.
3. He Died Last Year, Unexpectedly
Kildow died on November 1, 2017, at the age of 88. His obituary says he passed away peacefully, with his wife and children by his side. He is survived by a brother and sister, his wife Shirley, his four children, and 14 grandchildren.
Like Vonn, he was an impressive athlete, according to his obituary.
“He was an accomplished athlete who broke football records that may never be surpassed. He started at fullback, linebacker and place-kicker four straight years for the Milton Redmen and was First Team on the Wisconsin All-State Grid Squad on both offense and defense as a junior and senior. He was a Golden Gloves boxer, ski jumper, and alpine skier who was a founder of the Oak Ridge Ski Club in Janesville that was a springboard for future skiing successes,” the obituary says.
4.Vonn Gave an Emotional Tribute to Him on Instagram
On November 10, 2017, Lindsey posted a photo with her grandpa in Wisconsin. The caption read:
“Dear Grandpa,I still can’t believe you’re gone. No words can describe how much you mean to me and how much i love you. I wish i had more time with you but i will cherish the memories we had. You taught me to be tough, to be kind, and above all, to ski fast. Now, every time i ski down the mountain I know you’ll be there with me. I’m proud to be your granddaughter and I will think of you always. I will race for you in Korea and I will try as hard as I can to win for you. Please look out for me. I love you Grandpa. Lindsey.”
It is one of many Instagram photos and tweets Lindsey has posted about her grandfather.
5. Vonn Had Hoped to Bring Her Grandpa to the 2018 Winter Olympics
She told CNN that she had hoped her grandpa could be with her in Korea during the Olympics.
“I had gone through the whole process of figuring out how to medically get him over there. But now I hope that I can win for him. Everyone in my family wants me to win for him. I hope I can make him proud,” she said.