Lindsey Vonn Praises ‘Icon’ Billie Jean King as ‘an Inspiration’ and the 'Pillar of Equality'

The former alpine ski racer raved about the tennis legend and what she has done for women in sports

Lindsey Vonn is praising a sports pioneer who paved the way for female athletes — and "all women."

During a conversation with CNN Sport's Coy Wire on Thursday, the former alpine ski racer raved about tennis "icon" Billie Jean King, sharing how much the 79-year-old means to her.

"She's been an incredible inspiration to all women," Vonn, 38, told CNN Sports host Coy Wire. "Bille Jean is, I think, just the epitome of what a strong woman can do in the world when working hard."

"You know, she's been just this pillar of equality and she has done so much with Title IX and, you know, with getting equal pay in tennis and really started getting the ball rolling for so many women, not just in sports, but in the world," the Olympian continued. "She's such an icon and she's never stopped working toward equality."

Related: Billie Jean King Says Women of Color, with Disabilities and LGBTQ Have 'Been Left Behind' in Title IX Fight

On Monday, King was honored in an on-court ceremony on opening night of the US Open, marking the prestigious event's 50 years of equal pay for men and women. Vonn was also in attendance.

"I am so impressed by her always," Vonn said, adding, "I just have nothing but respect and praise for her."

Speaking to PEOPLE in October at the annual Salute to Women in Sports awards gala, King told PEOPLE there is a lot of work yet to be done, saying the progression of female rights, overall, has "been very, very slow."

"You'll think progress was very fast when you read it, but when you've lived it, it's very, very slow," the former tennis pro expanded. "So for me, all I'm thinking about now is the next 50 to 100 years, what can we do now to tee that up so girls and women are successful?"

<p>Melchior DiGiacomo/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images</p>

Melchior DiGiacomo/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images

Noting that the battle can't be fought by women alone, King added. "Men have to be a big part of this because they're our allies. And I know I've had men in my life who are true allies, they've made a huge difference because a lot of times they're the ones that have the power or the money."

She continued, "Eventually I hope that more women have that opportunity too, and women slowly but surely right now are starting to have more money and that's going to give choices, mobility and all the things that we need."

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<p>Jackson Lee/GC Images</p>

Jackson Lee/GC Images

Related: Lindsey Vonn Hits Back at Critic of USWNT Following Loss: ‘How About Giving These Athletes Some Respect’

Vonn, further discussing with CNN the "differences between women and men" and how they're "treated and paid," shared on Thursday, "there's still a discrepancy a little bit, you know, in how we're paid."

Throughout her career, Vonn said that she worked to get a fair amount of pay and likes to think she "definitely helped in a lot of ways" in ski racing, but acknowledges that King is simply at another level.

"She's got some determination, I love it," Vonn said.

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