Vail’s Lindsey Vonn, who blew out her right knee nearly a year ago in a crash at the World Championships, announced today she won’t be able to compete at the Winter Olympics next month in Sochi, Russia.
Vonn reinjured her surgically repaired knee in November while training at the U.S. Ski Team Speed Center in Copper Mountain but still managed to finish fifth in a World Cup super-G at Lake Louise, Canada, last month. But then she injured the knee again Dec. 21 in a World Cup at Val d’Isere, France, and later admitted she was skiing without an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).
“I am devastated to announce that I will not be able to compete in Sochi,” said Vonn, the defending gold medalist in downhill from the 2010 Winter Olympics. “I did everything I possibly could to somehow get strong enough to overcome having no ACL, but the reality has sunk in that my knee is just too unstable to compete at this level. I’m having surgery soon so that I can be ready for the World Championships at home in Vail next February.”
Vonn, 29, has claimed the most all-time World Cup wins among American women (59) and is second on the career victory list behind Annemarie Moser-Proell’s 62. Vonn also won bronze in the super-G at the Vancouver Olympics and was looking to add to her medal total in Sochi.
“On a positive note, this means there will be an additional spot so that one of my teammates can go for gold,” Vonn said. “Thank you all so much for all of the love and support. I will be cheering for all of the Olympians and especially Team USA!”
Vonn’s publicist, Lewis Kay, offered some more details on the condition of her knee:
“After the incident in Val D’Isere, an MRI showed an MCL sprain, which coupled with the torn ACL, has made it impossible to stabilize her knee and be ready to safely ski again next month,” Kay said in an email statement. “She will have surgery shortly and is expected to make a full recovery in time for the 2014/15 World Cup season and the 2015 World Alpine Ski Championships in Vail-Beaver Creek.”
Vonn’s first knee surgery was performed in Vail by Dr. Williams Sterett of Vail-Summit Orthopedics. The World Championships are scheduled for February of 2015 on Beaver Creek’s new women’s Raptor course and the traditional men’s Birds of Prey course. Vonn was forced to skip the debut of Raptor over the Thanksgiving weekend because of her ongoing knee situation.
“In looking ahead, I have every ounce of confidence that Lindsey will be in the starting gate next World Cup season ready to compete,” said Bill Marolt, president and CEO of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. “She knows the hard work it takes to get to the top and still has significant goals to achieve in what has been an incredible career.”
Marolt said the U.S. squad will still be strong in Sochi, even without Vonn.
“While Lindsey won’t be in Sochi, we have a strong team that is well prepared to challenge,” Marolt said. “The women’s speed team is experienced with five athletes who have achieved World Cup podiums and a seasoned veteran in Julia Mancuso, who has won three Olympic medals in her career. Now is the time for those athletes to step up towards our Best in the World vision.”
Vonn is the only American woman who’s ever won the Olympic downhill — the signature alpine skiing event of the Winter Games — and only the third American overall behind Bill Johnson (1984) and Tommy Moe (1994). Mancuso, however, claimed silver in the event behind Vonn at the Vancouver Olympics in 2010.
Sochi would have been the fourth Winter Olympic Games for Vonn, who turned in the best result for an American women at the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics with a sixth in the combined event, but Sochi may have been the last shot for Vonn to compete in the Games. She will be 33 at the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. However, American Bode Miller is expected to compete in Sochi at the age of 36.