Lindsey Vonn: My eyes have been opened to 'how divided we are'

Lindsey Vonn
Lindsey Vonn

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Story highlights

  • Vonn responds to interview criticism
  • Surprised by 'hurtful' comments

(CNN)Since telling CNN's Alpine Edge she would not be representing US President Donald Trump at the 2018 Winter Olympics, skier Lindsey Vonn has received thousands of messages.

Many of them, she says, have been positive and supportive. Many others, inevitably, have not been.
Some people have wished for her to break her leg, back or neck on the slopes, while others saw her latest injury, which forced her to pull out of a race in St. Moritz, as some sort of karma.
    "My recent comments opened up my eyes as to how divided we are right now," wrote Vonn in a lengthy Instagram post.
    "It is hurtful to read comments where people are hoping I break my neck or that God is punishing me for being 'anti-Trump.'
    "We need to find a way to put aside our differences and find common ground in communicating. Is it wrong to hope for a better world?"
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    As an Alpine skier, Vonn's season involves her traveling the globe and she remarked in her post that she has seen a marked difference in the way people now view the US.
    "I am proud to be an American, and I want our country to continue to be a symbol of hope, compassion, inclusion and world unity," Vonn wrote.
    "My travels around the world have recently made clear that this is no longer how people view the United States.
    "You cannot pick up a newspaper or turn on the TV in Europe without noticing how people are questioning our direction. It seems to me that we must lead with understanding and strive for unity in our relationships throughout the world."

    As I head to France for the next races, I would like to share with you my reflections from the past few days. I've received a tremendous amount of feedback, both positive and negative, about my recent CNN interview. The point that I was trying to articulate is that all Olympic athletes represent their nation as a whole, and are not representatives of their government or any specific political figure or party. None of us work tirelessly for years on end to compete in the Olympics on behalf of Democrats or Republicans. The Olympics are a non-political event, a chance for everyone to put aside their differences and be on the same "team.". That does not mean that Olympic athletes don't have political opinions. As an American, I am extremely proud that our great nation was founded on principals and ideals where citizens can express our opinions openly. It is a privilege that some others around the world don't have. I am proud to be an American, and I want our country to continue to be a symbol of hope, compassion, inclusion and world unity. My travels around the world have recently made clear that this is no longer how people view the United States. You cannot pick up a newspaper or turn on the TV in Europe without noticing how people are questioning our direction. It seems to me that we must lead with understanding and strive for unity in our relationships throughout the world. As for myself, my recent comments opened up my eyes as to how divided we are right now. It is hurtful to read comments where people are hoping I break my neck or that God is punishing me for being "anti-Trump." We need to find a way to put aside our differences and find common ground in communicating. Is it wrong to hope for a better world? All of this is much bigger than skiing and the Olympics. I am going to take the next two months to focus on what I can do and right now that is competing for my country. In doing that, I will be hoping that we Americans can still be that "shining city on a hill."

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    'Privilege'

    Despite the abuse she's received, Vonn believes it's important that Olympic athletes should be allowed to have political views.
    "The point that I was trying to articulate is that all Olympic athletes represent their nation as a whole, and are not representatives of their government or any specific political figure or party," she continued.
    "None of us work tirelessly for years on end to compete in the Olympics on behalf of Democrats or Republicans," Vonn added. "The Olympics are a non-political event, a chance for everyone to put aside their differences and be on the same 'team.'
    "That does not mean that Olympic athletes don't have political opinions. As an American, I am extremely proud that our great nation was founded on principals and ideals where citizens can express our opinions openly.
    "It is a privilege that some others around the world don't have."
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    This season, Vonn is trying to become the most successful skier in history, bidding to break Ingemar Stenmark's record of 86 World Cup race wins.
    Despite her place among the most successful skiers of all time, the 33-year-old surprisingly only has one Olympic gold medal to her name, a tally she is desperate to add to in PyeongChang.

    Proud

    Vonn is just one of a number of high-profile US athletes to have spoken out against Trump, who has regularly been embroiled in controversy since taking office.
    This year he has been involved in a continued spat with the NFL and several of its footballers, who have taken to kneeling during the anthem to protest racial inequality in the States.
    Despite her outspoken views against the current President, Vonn emphasized that she is still proud to represent the USA at the Winter Olympics
    "All of this is much bigger than skiing and the Olympics," she said. "I am going to take the next two months to focus on what I can do and right now that is competing for my country.
    "In doing that, I will be hoping that we Americans can still be that 'shining city on a hill.'"