Lindsey Vonn: The Epitome of Mental Toughness

Congratulations to Lindsey Vonn who demonstrated the epitome of mental toughness by winning the gold medal in women’s downhill at the Vancouver Olympics. Mental toughness is defined as being able to perform at the top range of your abilities, on command, regardless of the situation. Her win demonstrated how she is not only a great athlete and fierce competitor, but was able to compete despite overwhelming media attention, medal expectations, critics, a painful shin injury, conspiracy theorists who claimed her shin injury was fabricated to diffuse expectations, and academicians with a critical perspective.

Mental toughness is a psychological skill that can be taught and developed, and mentally dealing with and tolerating pain is an essential element to successful and consistent performance. On the men’s side snowboarder Shaun White, who similarly won a gold medal in the men’s halfpipe would also exemplify mental toughness.

Many of my sport psychology colleagues work closely with the USOC, and are currently at the Olympics helping to increase the likelihood of optimal performance for Team USA. To learn more about mental toughness, psychological skills training and the field of sport psychology, there are numerous sites you can visit including:

3 Replies to “Lindsey Vonn: The Epitome of Mental Toughness”

  1. Are there any studies on how coaches teach (and understand) mental toughness, in particular to competitive youth athetes (including high school, college and now young Olympic athletes)? Do male and female coaches understand and teach mental toughness the same? And, does that change depending on who they are coaching (girls/boys, team/individual, sport type, competitive/recreational, etc)? Would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks


    1. I have met with a sport psychology consultant who works with a number of the athletes that are on the US ski team, mostly the freestyle skiers, and He has published a book which contains his studies and research from others on how to teach mental toughness. It is called The Fearless Mind I thought this might help.


  2. Thank you for writing a piece lauding the qualities of a great athlete. Vonn is the most successful American woman skier – ever. And Shaun White – another amazing athlete. And there’s moguls Gold medalist Hannah Kearney who recovered from knee injury and concussion to take the World Cup moguls title in 2009. And a mention of half-pipe Gold medalist Torah Bright who – while not American – is as tough as they come.


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