The Winter Olympics will be missing one of the biggest ski stars – Lindsey Vonn because of a right knee injury. The 29-year-old American broke the news on her Facebook page on Tuesday.
“I am devastated to announce that I will not be competing in Sochi. I did everything I possibly could to somehow get strong enough to overcome having no ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) but the reality has sunk in that my knee is just too unstable to compete at this level.
She continued: “I’m having surgery soon so that I can be ready for the World Championships at home in Vail next February. On a positive note, this means there will be an additional spot so that one of my teammates can go for gold.”
She brought home two medals from the 2010 Vancouver Games, and became the first American woman to win an Olympic gold in the downhill. Vonn is also a four-time overall World Cup champion, the most recognized name in Alpine skiing, as well as the girlfriend of Tiger Woods, says the Huff Post.
Vonn initially injured her knee in February, during a crash at the World Ski Championships in Austria. She underwent surgery to repair two ligaments, the ACL and MCL. While it looked like she might be on track to recover for the Olympics, she re-aggravated the injury in a November training crash.
The head of the US Ski and Snowboard Association, Bill Marolt said he was confident Vonn would be able to bounce back from the injury in time for the next World Cup season later this year.
“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.
“While Lindsey won’t be in Sochi, we have a strong team that is well prepared to challenge. 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.”
Mikaela Shiffrin, the reigning world champion in slalom, and Julia Mancuso, a three-time Olympic medalist, will now be the American women with the best chances of reaching the Alpine skiing podium in Sochi.
Shortly after Vonn announced her withdrawal, Shiffrin wrote on her Twitter account: “It’s hard to swallow that @lindseyvonn won’t be competing in Sochi, but I’m incredibly impressed at her determination. She’s a true #hero.”
Vonn will be 33 when the next Winter Olympics are contested, in 2018. She has, for years, guaranteed only that she will compete until the 2015 world championships in Colorado, but last summer she admitted that she had been thinking about 2018.
“You never know, but 33 isn’t that old for a ski racer anymore,” she said with a smile.
As for Vonn, who has multiple high-profile corporate sponsors, it would not be a surprise if she surfaced as a commentator during the Sochi Olympics for NBC, with whom she has always had a close association, reports the NY Times.