It hasn’t been easy for US skiing superstar Lindsey Vonn in recent months as she received a torrent of online abuse after saying she wouldn’t visit the White House if she won Olympics gold in Pyeongchang.
But there are at least three loyal friends Vonn can always count on — and these ones can’t tweet.
“They don’t talk back, they don’t tell me what to do, they just love me,” Vonn recently told CNN.
She is referring to her three rescue dogs, Lucy, Leo and Bear.
Of the three, her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Lucy, is the biggest celebrity. Small enough to accompany Vonn to overseas races, she is often the paparazzi’s target and even became the center of a meme posted on Twitter by Team USA.
More than just a fluffy mascot, Lucy is a huge comfort for Vonn, especially when she’s on the road.
“If you don’t have anyone it can be very, very lonely and just empty,” she says, “I always have someone to cuddle with, and someone that’s happy to see me.”
Vonn divorced her husband Thomas Vonn in 2011. She was then in a relationship with Tiger Woods for more than two years until 2015.
This February, the 33-year-old Vonn tweeted her current relationship status, writing “I’m single because I only have eyes for the Olympics.”
Eyes on the prize
However, that single-minded focus on the Olympics isn’t quite working out to plan. A major mistake on the last turn of Saturday’s super-G competition cost her a medal as she tied for sixth place.
Vonn’s focus is now on Wednesday’s downhill race, for which she’s one of the favorites for Olympic gold. She is also competing in this Saturday’s alpine combined slalom. If she wins either she’d become only the third alpine skier to secure three Olympic medals.
She claimed Olympic downhill gold and super-G bronze in Vancouver in 2010, but missed the 2014 Sochi Games because of a knee injury.
Vonn has undergone two serious knee operations and it was just before the second surgery in 2014 that she adopted her first dog, Leo, from an animal shelter.
Vonn posted a photo on Instagram announcing the adoption, saying that Leo had been hit by a car and also has a bad knee.
“Maybe we can do rehab together,” she wrote.
Vonn’s knee injuries had sent her into depression, and was part of the reason why she started adopting dogs.
“I was in a really bad place and it started to give me some hope and lift my spirits,” she says. “It definitely did the trick,” she adds.
‘Crazy dog lady’
Vonn has even created an Instagram account for her pooches — the “Vonndogs” — which has 29.1K followers.
The US skier isn’t the only winter Olympian to have an Instagram account for her pets.
American snowboarder Chloe Kim, who won gold in the ladies’ halfpipe at PyeongChang, set up an Instagram account for her miniature Australian shepherd dog, Reese.
Another American halfpipe gold medal winner, Shaun White, has an account for his dog, “Leroy the good boy.”
Freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy rescued two puppies from Russia during the Sochi Games, who can be followed on Instagram under the name “The Sochi Pups,” and the ice-skating duo Alex and Maia Shibutani have two Maltese puppies, “Lily and Po.”
While Vonn is the first to admit that she’s a “crazy dog lady,” she insists, “it’s better than a crazy cat lady.”