Lindsey Vonn - American, 27, Skiing (42)
A difficult year personally for Lindsey Vonn was also her most successful professionally.
Even as a messy divorce from husband and manager Thomas Vonn was being played out, sometimes in public, Vonn was enjoying remarkable success on the slopes, confirming her position as the world’s best female skier and one of the likely stars of the Sochi 2014 winter Olympics.
Alongside snowboarding supremo Shaun White, the 28-year-old will undoubtedly be one of Team USA and NBC’s faces of the Games in two years’ time as she sets out to defend the downhill gold she won in Vancouver. She may yet win more: the 2011/12 season saw her take the downhill, super-G and super combined World Cups while reclaiming the overall World Cup crown, her fourth such victory in five years.
Like White, Vonn is one of only a select group of US athletes with the ability to sustain a wide national presence in non-Olympic years. Backed solidly by Red Bull’s US division, for whom she is increasingly central to a variety of innovative campaigns, and a tranche of sponsors including department store chain Kohl’s, Vail Resorts in Colorado and Oakley, Vonn has combination of good looks, crossover appeal, a personal touch with social media and Olympic potential that make her about as close as possible to a sure-fire success for any brand seeking to capitalise on what will certainly be the most-marketed winter Games yet.