Less than 2 weeks after reconstructive right knee surgery in February 2013, Lindsey Vonn already was sounding a positive note, saying she was “really looking forward to Sochi” and defending her Olympic downhill gold medal.
Along the way to the next Winter Games, though, Vonn began facing more setbacks. As she’d move past one, another would surface. In the end, it was too much, even for Vonn, the most accomplished U.S. ski racer in history. Expected to be one of the biggest stars at the upcoming Games, Vonn announced Tuesday – exactly 1 month before the opening ceremony – she won’t be able to race in Russia.
In a Facebook posting, Vonn said she is “devastated” to miss the Olympics, “but the reality has sunk in that my knee is just too unstable to compete at this level.”
Her personal publicist, Lewis Kay, said in a statement the 29-year-old from Vail, Colo., will have knee surgery again “shortly.”
Like many in her risk-filled sport, Vonn has dealt with injuries often, particularly at major events.
“She’s come back. She’ll be back,” Vonn’s father, Alan Kildow, said in a telephone interview. “You’ll see a lot of Lindsey Vonn in the future.”
Vonn left the 2010 Vancouver Games with two medals: the first Olympic downhill gold for an American woman, and a bronze in the super-G. She is also a four-time overall World Cup champion, by far the most recognized name in Alpine skiing at the moment – and, as it happens, the girlfriend of Tiger Woods.
To those in the world of skiing, there’s no doubt about the sport’s most important athlete of late.
“Without Lindsey Vonn, the races are just not the same,” Canadian women’s Alpine coach Hugues Ansermoz said last month. “She just attracts so much interest. When Lindsey Vonn is here, there are more people coming to watch the race, there is more interest on TV, more journalists are interested.”
But Vonn has rarely been present on the elite skiing circuit the past 12 months.
“I did everything I possibly could to somehow get strong enough to overcome having no ACL,” Vonn said Tuesday via Facebook.
“I’m having surgery soon so that I can be ready for the World Championships at home in Vail next February,” she wrote.
• Left hospital to continue competeing after training crash during 2006 Olympics
• Missed two races at 2007 world championships with knee injury
• Missed race at 2009 world championships after slicing thumb open on champagne bottle
• Competed at 2010 Olympics despite bruised shin
• Withdrew from 2011 world championship with concussion
• Missed 9 months after tearing 2 ligaments in right knee and breaking bone in right leg last February
• Missed 1 month after re-tearing surgically-reparied ACL in November
• Will miss 2014 Olympics next month for another knee surgery, after spraining her MCL in late December