updated 08/25/2015 AT 8:16 PM ET
•originally published 02/05/2014 AT 5:00 PM ET
Olympic gold medalist Lindsey Vonn admits it’s tough not being able to defend her downhill skiing gold medal in Sochi, especially after working hard to battle back from an earlier knee injury, only to suffer a second one.
“It’s hard. I just want to be there but I can’t,” says Vonn, 29, who made the difficult decision to sit out this Olympics once she realized her knee was too unstable to compete.
Vonn, the most accomplished female skier in U.S. history, credits her mom, Lindy Lund, with helping her stay positive no matter what challenge she has faced.
“My mom had a stroke when she had me. She’s never been able to ski with me. Her support has always meant a lot. Her toughness and positivity have always helped me get through challenges, especially with my injuries.”
“She always sees the positives in everything,” adds Vonn. “She always says, ‘There’s always tomorrow. There’s always another race.’ When you say it like that, it sounds really simple. It’s not that simple. But she makes me feel like it’s possible.”
Vonn has the chance to thank her mom publicly for all her years of support in a NBC primetime special airing tonight at 8 p.m. EST called How to Raise An Olympian, which is part of P&G’s ongoing Thank You Mom campaign. The special features Vonn and her mother and six other Olympians and their mothers.
“It’s a great opportunity for my mom to finally get the credit she deserves,” says Vonn.
“He just reminds me to be patient, that everything is going to be fine,” she says. “I really appreciate all the support he has given me. It makes a big difference.”