Less than two weeks after reconstructive right-knee surgery in February, 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 2014 Winter Games, though, Vonn began facing more setbacks. In the end, the adversity 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 — one 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 publicist, Lewis Kay, said in a statement the 29-year-old from Vail, Colo., will have knee surgery again “shortly.”
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Like many in her risk-filled sport, Vonn has dealt with injuries, particularly at major events. She withdrew midway through the 2011 world championships because of a concussion. She raced with a severely bruised shin at the last Olympics. She skipped a race at the 2009 worlds after slicing her thumb open on a champagne bottle. She hurt her knee in training and missed two races at the 2007 worlds. She took a scary fall during training at the 2006 Olympics, then left a hospital to compete.
“She’ll be back,” Vonn’s father, Alan Kildow, said. “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-giant slalom. She is also a four-time overall World Cup champion, by far the most recognized name in U.S. skiing at the moment — and, as it happens, the girlfriend of top-ranked golfer Tiger Woods.
Vonn re-tore her surgically repaired anterior cruciate ligament in a crash during training in November. After three World Cup races in Canada, Vonn sprained her medial collateral ligament during a downhill in France two weeks later.
“I did everything I possibly could to somehow get strong enough to overcome having no ACL,” Vonn said via Facebook. “I’m having surgery soon so that I can be ready for the (2015) World Championships at home in Vail.”
Vonn needs three victories to match the women’s World Cup record of 62 held by the retired Annemarie Moser-Proell of Austria.