AP Photo/Nathan Bilow

Lindsey Vonn crashes while prepping for return to racing

Reigning Olympic downhill champion Lindsey Vonn crashed Tuesday while training in Copper Mountain, Colo., ahead of her planned return to racing following major knee surgery.

U.S. Ski Team spokesman Tom Kelly said Vonn was taken down the hill on a sled, which he noted was “normal protocol” in such cases. Kelly said he was not sure whether Vonn hurt her surgically repaired right knee in the fall at the team's speed training center.

“We have no reason to believe it's anything significant right now,” Kelly told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

A spokesman for Vonn, Lewis Kay, issued a statement saying the ski racer was not admitted to a hospital and instead went home to Vail to be evaluated by the doctor who performed her knee surgery. Kay didn't specify the nature of her injuries.

“We expect to have clarity on the situation in the next 24 hours,” Kay said.

Vonn, a four-time overall World Cup champion, tore ligaments in her right knee in a high-speed accident at the world championships in February. She has been aiming to return to World Cup competition next week in Beaver Creek, Colo.

The Sochi Games are in February.

Tuesday's crash was first reported by Skiracing.com.

With Vonn feeling her knee was months ahead of schedule, she thought about pushing up her comeback to the season-opening giant slalom in Soelden, Austria, late last month. But she changed her mind, opting instead to continue to prepare.

Vonn recently said her super-G is “some of the best super-G I've ever skied, but my downhill still needs a little more time.”

She's been taking practice runs in Copper Mountain, and posted on her Twitter account Monday: “Catching some air today in Downhill training.”

She also recently said that she's reluctantly been wearing a protective knee brace under doctor's orders.

“It's in my best interest to play it safe,” Vonn said. “I compromised and said that as long as I don't have to wear (the brace) for the Olympics, I'll be fine.”

On her Facebook page, three-time Olympic medalist Julia Mancuso posted a picture of the two of them together and a caption that read: “Lets all send Lindsey Vonn our positivity and hope for the best! (after her little crash today)”

The 29-year-old Vonn attended the NFL game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos on Sunday night, hanging out on the sideline with boyfriend Tiger Woods.

Vonn needs just three more wins to match Austrian great Annemarie Moser-Proell's record of 62 World Cup race victories. And while Vonn insists her primary focus this season is being fully healthy for Sochi, she acknowledges that World Cup mark would hold special meaning.

“There are many Olympic champions, but to be the No. 1 winningest World Cup racer of all time, you're alone on that list. You're at the top,” Vonn said. “That would be more substantial for me and my legacy.”

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