“It’s really hard for me not to cry,” Vonn said when asked about Don Kildow, who died in November at the age of 88.
“I just want so badly to do well for him. I miss him so much, he’s been such a big part of my life.
“I really hoped he’d have been alive to see me, but I know he’s watching and I know he’s going to help me, and I’m going to win for him.”
Don Kildow built the first ski hill around Milton, Wisconsin, and taught his own children to ski before going on to inspire his grandchildren.
“You taught me to be tough, to be kind, and above all, to ski fast,” Vonn said in an Instagram post shortly after his death, one of many social media postings hailing the influence of her grandfather, who was ironically stationed not far from the Jeongseon Alpine Centre when he served with the US army during the Korean War.
Vonn confirmed she felt “really good”, but added: “It’s not really about me or my career, it’s about my grandfather.
“I’m just going to lay it all out there. I’m going to give it everything I have and whatever happens will happen.
“I’m not going to be nervous, I know he’s looking out for me and that gives me some peace of mind.”
– ‘Downhill suits me’ –
Vonn won Olympic gold in the downhill and super-G bronze at the 2010 Games, but missed the 2014 Olympics through injury.
This time around she confirmed she will compete in the downhill, super-G and the combined.
“I’m coming in on a hot streak,” the 33-year-old said. “I love the track here, the downhill is really well suited for me.
“But I’ve decided not to do the giant slalom because my knee’s not in place to do that.
“I don’t think I can contend for a medal so there’s no point.”
Vonn, a four-time overall World Cup champion, has notched up 81 World Cup victories said she has Swedish legend Ingemar Stenmark’s record of 86 race wins in her sights.
“I’m definitely going to ski another season after this,” she said.
“I’m going to continue skiing until I get to 86. I think next year I can get beyond that. As long as my knee is holding up and I’m still able to win then I will keep skiing, but it really depends on my knee, that’s the determing factor on my retirement.”
Having spent the best part of three years in rehabilitation since 2012, Vonn left no one in any doubt about her focus.
“My entire summer has been focused on the Olympics. It’s what I think about the first thing when I wake up and it’s what I think about when I go to sleep.”