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Lindsey Vonn's Pet Cow

By Courtney Harkins
December, 19 2014
VAL D’ISERE, France (Dec. 19, 2014) - We often see athletes on the podium, holding skis over their heads with medals around their necks. Other times, we see the funny prizes the athletes win—such as a large bird of prey in Beaver Creek or a reindeer at Levi or Ruka, high above the Arctic Cirle in Finnish Lapland. However, these prizes are mostly tokens. In Beaver Creek, the bird—who is named after its corresponding podium mate—stays with its handlers and the skier takes home a framed photo or sculpture. In Lapland, the reindeer stays on the farm, but the winner can follow the beast’s adventures via social media and come visit it when they return.
Val d’Isere is no different. In 2005, the resort —which is smack in the middle of an abundant cheese farm region—offered a Tarine cow (notable as the producer of local Beaufort cheese) to the winner of the downhill. However, after the photos were snapped and the crowd dispersed, they planned to trade the cow for a $5,000 check—a prize they assumed an athlete would prefer over livestock. But they didn’t count on Lindsey Vonn (then Kildow) winning, or how smitten she became with the cow. 
Lindsey said no. She would like to keep the cow.
With the Val d’Isere downhill coming up this weekend, we thought we’d ask Lindsey about her cow. And turns out, she doesn’t just own one cow anymore—she owns a small herd. On the eve of the Val d’Isere downhill, Lindsey told us the full story.
USSA: Tell us why you picked the cow over the money.
LINDSEY VONN: Well, I picked her over the $5,000 pot because she was really cute. I heard before the run that they were giving a cow and that it would be in the finish. I got really excited. I remembering thinking, “I want a pet cow.” At the prize-giving ceremony, they told me to give the cow back and they’d give me a check. I freaked out at them, “No! You can’t take her away. You said she was my cow!” 
USSA: What’s her name?
LV: Her name is Olympe. It was an Olympic year. Patrick Riml [Alpine Director] had to go and negotiate for my cow. That cow is apparently worth $20,000 and they weren’t intending on actually giving it away. They assumed I would just want the $5K. 
USSA: Where is Olympe now?
LV: We used to train and live in Kirchberg, Austria as a team. There was a guy that lived there and ran the ski school. He called Patrick to say there was a place for Olympe in his barn with other cows. Patrick organized it. So that summer, they drove Olympe 10 hours from Val d’Isere to Kirchberg. 
USSA: How did you end up owning a herd of cows?
LV: She was pregnant when they gave her to me—they weren’t really happy about that—so I actually got two cows. I named the second one Sunny. Then Olympe had another baby, who I named Karin, after my sister. My sister was not happy about that. And then Sunny had two cows—a boy and a girl—who I named Don and Shirley, after my grandparents. 
I also got a goat for winning the 2009 World Championships in Val d’Isere and I named that one Laura, after my other sister. I gave this goat to a farmer near Olympe. He would always bring us this homemade bread when we trained there. He was such a sweet guy. He spoke no English, but loved the team, so I gave him the goat.
USSA: How’s Olympe now?
LV: The farmer built a whole new addition on the barn to house Olympe. She has her own little nook now, but I haven’t seen her in three years. 
USSA: If you win the Val d’Isere World Cup this year, they’ll give you a wheel (somewhere between 40-60 kilos!) of local Beaufort cheese. But, if you won a cow again, would you take it?
LV: Oh, I’d take the cow for sure. 
Perfect. Good luck this weekend!