Lindsey Vonn Reflects on Tiger Woods Romance, Says They're Still Friends (Exclusive)

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Lindsey Vonn is getting real. The former Olympic skier is diving into her past, sharing her proudest moments, struggles with depression, and more in her new memoir, Rise: My Story, out now. Known as being the most decorated female skier of all time, the 37-year-old athlete has also made headlines for her relationships, most noteworthy her almost three-year romance with Tiger Woods.

As she tells ET's Rachel Smith, those public relationships have taught her a lot about what to share with the world and what to keep private.

"I just think, generally, it's really difficult to date anyone in the public eye, and I’ve always been a really open person. But I think I learned that there’s some things that need to be kept private," Vonn shares while chatting about her book. "And as much as I didn’t want to share everything that makes me happy and all the fun times that I had, that's also just for me and my partner, and I didn't need to share that. So it's difficult, obviously, being in this position because everyone wants a scoop and no one wants to know what I’m doing."

Tiger Woods Lindsay Vonn

Tiger Woods Lindsey Vonn attend Tiger Jam 2014 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on May 17, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Vonn and Woods dated for nearly three years from March 2013 before splitting in May 2015. Their split was amicable, and the gold Olympic medalist says she and the pro golfer are still "friends."

"We are friends and, of course, I'm happy that he is back and healthy," she says of their relationship and Woods' recent car accident and recovery. "And, you know, it was a tough time for him. So I am just happy that he is back with his kids."

While Vonn doesn't dig deep into her romances, which also include ex-husband Thomas Vonn and ex-fiancé P.K. Subban, she does admit that in some relationships she was in, she didn't like who she was becoming.

"Being an athlete and focusing 100 percent on my skiing, being in a relationship was difficult because I didn’t really want to fight or argue," she explains. "So I just kind of compromised and I was like, 'I’m traveling to them and I'm doing want they want to do too, and I’m having what dinner they want to have.' I wanted to please and I just sacrificed myself."

"I didn't really talk more about it because I don’t think it’s worth the pages," she adds. "I’m stronger and I’m better and I’ve learned from my past and I’ve learned from my relationships. I think we all make decisions the best we can from the information that we're given and I learned and I moved on."
 
These days, Vonn says, "I’m just really happy. I’m in a great place and, once again, I’ve learned a lot about myself and what I need in a person." She also notes that she'd like to find a partner and have a family someday.

"I am 37, so I am definitely looking forward to having a family at some point, but you kind of need to have a partner for that," she laughs. "I am in a good place. We will see what happens, but I definitely want a family at some point in the future."

Vonn retired in 2019 after suffering multiple injuries over the course of her career. The athlete had been devoted to skiing ever since she was a little girl, deciding it was her dream to compete in the Olympics when she was nine years old. With her whole family devoted to making her dreams come true, she also had many low points in her life, struggling with depression and her parents' divorce. The only way she got through those hard times was skiing.

"There is so much going on in my personal life that I just felt like I didn’t have anything really stable that would always be there," she recalls. "My family had their own problems that they were dealing with and I was on the road. And the only thing that I really had that was always there no matter what was skiing."

"I just kind of used that as my escape and kind of funneled all of my emotions into my races. That was my outlet," she continues, before touching on the downside of retiring. "I think that's why it was such a challenge for me when I retired because I didn’t have that outlet anymore and had to really confront certain things that I had been neglecting and putting off for a really long time. But I think when we are in challenging situations, we do the best we can and we find different coping mechanisms and for me that was skiing."

"It definitely took me a minute to kind of get my feet underneath me. But now I'm awesome, I love what I'm doing and I'm incredibly happy," she says, adding that she's looking forward to "the next chapter in life."

She says that skiing is "definitely a high risk job" and she was hoping that when she retired that her "body would be happier and less angry every morning." Unfortunately, she notes, that has not changed. "It hurts every day, so it's a bit frustrating. But I think maybe I can get a knee replacement in the next year or two or something like that," she says. "Hopefully that will help."

With skiing no longer a full-time job for her, she used writing her life story as another coping mechanism. After leaving the sport behind, she "wanted to reflect on what I've done."

"And sometimes I feel like when you’re in the moment in your career, you don't really appreciate what you've done," she expresses. "And so it was just the right time. It took me a while to write it because I wrote it right when I was retiring, even in my last season. And I think I was still in a really weird spot, a bit resentful that I couldn't keep going, and I was sad. I actually scrapped my first book and totally started over again."

However, in the years that followed, she began again and is now "really happy with the result." "But it took me a little bit to kind of just process everything, but I think in the end, it was very therapeutic and a way for me to process retiring and moving on," she states. "And I hope that it's something that at some point when I have kids they can look back and enjoy it as well."

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