The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has announced that Olympic champion Lindsey Vonn, 26, of Vail, Co. will take a leading role in mentoring athletes at the 2012 Winter Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria.
Vonn, a three-time World Cup overall champion, will become the first-ever Winter Youth Olympic Games Ambassador. In accepting the position, she recalled the inspiration provided by her idol—Sun Valley's Picabo Street, who turned 40 April 3.
"I have been skiing since I was two years old," said Vonn. "So I know the importance of strong role models. When I first met my hero, Picabo Street, it was a huge thrill and an unforgettable moment for me.
"She inspired me to become what I am today. If I can have even half that effect on some of the young athletes I come into contact with, it will be worth it. I'm really looking forward to it."
In her new position as Ambassador for the Innsbruck Youth Olympic Games, Vonn will encourage young people around the globe to become more active in sport. The Games will take place Jan. 13-22, 2012.
"It is a terrific thing to have such an iconic and successful winter athlete—not to mention a three-time Olympian—on board to mentor the athletes at the 2012 Winter Youth Olympic Games and encourage kids around the world to take up sport," IOC President Jacques Rogge said.
"Lindsey is not only a great champion. She has a great personality, a warm heart and she knows what it means to give the best of yourself in whatever you do. She is sure to have a positive and lasting impact on the young people she interacts with."
Innsbruck 2012 will attract over 1,000 athletes between the ages of 15-18 from roughly 70 countries. Events on the program include alpine (slalom and GS), cross country, freeskiing (skicross and halfpipe) nordic combined, ski jumping and snowboarding (halfpipe and slopestyle).
Athletes will also participate in a Culture and Education Programme (CEP) featuring fun and engaging activities designed to provide guidance on a wide range of topics, including Olympic values, the benefits of leading a healthy lifestyle, and the prevention of sports injuries.
Throughout an 11-year international ski racing career and her steady rise to consideration as one of the greatest women's ski racers ever, Minnesota native Vonn has repeatedly credited Street as her inspiration.
Street, a native of Triumph, won the 1998 Olympic super giant slalom gold medal and was the first American woman to capture the World Cup season women's downhill title, doing it twice in 1995 and 1996.
A three-time Olympian, she ended her career with nine World Cup victories. The mother of two and a 2004 inductee into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame, Street now lives in Park City, Utah and in Alabama.
Vonn has taken Street's example many times further, becoming the first American woman to win an Olympic gold medal in downhill in 2010. She has 41 World Cup victories and 80 podiums to her credit, along with nine discipline World Cup titles plus her three overall globes.
Vonn's appointment follows the success of Summer Youth Olympic Games Ambassadors Usain Bolt, Yelena Isinbayeva and Michael Phelps, who supported last year's inaugural Youth Olympic Games in Singapore. Visit innsbruck2012.com.