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VAIL, Colo. -- The town square in this manicured resort was dark by the time Lindsey Vonn stopped signing autographs Saturday evening. Her teammates in their identical purple plaid jackets had gradually drifted away after a long day of training and media interviews, but Vonn, still looking relaxed and fresh, kept scrawling away on hats, jackets, skis, anything offered to her. She lives just steps away and you could feel an almost palpable sense that she didn't want to let anyone down.
[Podcast: Vonn talks with Bonnie Ford about staying motivated ... and cheese. ]
Disappointment has largely disappeared from Vonn's vocabulary in the past three years, and she'd like to keep it that way. A three-time defending World Cup overall champion and double world championship gold medalist in speed events, Vonn survived injury and intensely high expectations to win a downhill gold and a bronze medal in the super-G at the Vancouver Olympics.
A veteran at 26, Vonn's next quest is to be more versatile. She is committed to competing through the 2014 Sochi Games and wants to improve her performance in the technical events. Of Vonn's 33 career wins on the World Cup circuit, only two have come from slalom and three from the combined event; giant slalom remains her last unconquered frontier. She focused on slalom and giant slalom in training this summer -- "I've always struggled with those two events," she said -- and tweaked her diet this fall, eliminating rice, pasta, bread and dairy products.
Maintaining dominance and expanding a skill set can be a tricky equation for an athlete, but "It's definitely possible," Vonn said. Her motivational example is a role model who has become a friend, Roger Federer. She witnessed him complete his career Slam at the 2009 French Open -- the first match at that level she'd seen in person -- and spent quality time with him before this year's U.S. Open.