Lindsey Vonn partially tore one of the reconstructed ligaments in her surgically repaired right knee in a training crash that at the very least puts her preparation for the Sochi Olympics on hold.
What is less clear at the moment: When the four-time overall World Cup champion and 2010 Vancouver downhill gold medalist will be able to compete again and how her injuries might affect her Olympic hopes.
In addition to Vonn's ligament tear, the U.S. Ski Team and Vonn's personal publicist, Lewis Kay, issued nearly identical statements Wednesday detailing more injuries from her fall at Copper Mountain, Colo., a day earlier: a mild strain to her right knee, the same one Vonn hurt in a high-speed crash at the world championships in February; “minor facial abrasions”; a bruised shoulder blade.
Vonn has not competed since needing surgery to fix her ACL and MCL after the crash in Austria nine months ago; the ACL was re-injured Tuesday.
Kay said that after Vonn rests for a few days, she “then will pursue aggressive physical therapy and will determine the next time she is able to compete after seeing how she responds to the treatment.”
Vonn has won 59 World Cup races, leaving her only three shy of Austrian great Annemarie Moser-Proell's record of 62.
The 29-year-old American had been aiming to return to World Cup competition next week in Beaver Creek, Colo.
The Sochi Games are in February.
“If it's just a partial tear, maybe it's a four-plus-week recovery. I believe Lindsey is the kind of person that's going to work as hard as anybody can work at it and will recover as strong as anyone. She has the mind-frame to come back strong. If it's possible for her to get out there and compete, she'll be out there competing. And when she competes, she normally wins,” said U.S. ski racer Ted Ligety, a gold medalist at the 2006 Turin Games.
“Who knows at this point if it's Olympic-threatening?” Ligety said in a telephone interview. “Obviously, it's World Cup-threatening for the near term.”
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.”
Comebacks are really nothing new for Vonn, who has been plagued by injuries throughout her career at major championships — from a thumb she sliced on a champagne bottle at the 2009 world championships in Val d'Isere, France, to a bruised shin that she treated with the unorthodox remedy of Austrian cheese at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and to her wipeout last season.
Vonn also had a horrific crash in downhill training at the 2006 Turin Olympics, only to recover in time to compete.
She has always attacked rehab with the same intensity as if it were a downhill course.
“I've been injured a lot,” Vonn said in an interview with The Associated Press at a promotional appearance last week. “I have a short memory when it comes to my crashes. I'm able to put it out of my head and focus on tomorrow. You have to be able to do that. Otherwise, you're going to be living in fear of what you did in the past.”
Not once after a fall has she visited with a sports psychologist to deal with the mental trauma of a crash, insisting, “I'm stubborn. I'm definitely stubborn. If someone tells me I can't, I'm definitely going to do it.”
Before her recent fall, Vonn said she was looking forward to seeing what was possible in Sochi on her repaired knee. She said the true stress came at the 2010 Vancouver Games, where she captured her first Olympic gold medal.
“The pressure was almost unbearable,” said Vonn, who also earned a bronze medal in the super-G in 2010. “I felt like if I didn't win there, people were going to say I'm not a big-event skier, even though I won four world championship medals. I knew that, knew the weight of it.
“I knew for my career, even though I had so many World Cup wins, that was a very pivotal point in my career. I'm very happy that I got that monkey off my back.”