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Well, that puts a chill into the Team USA’s Winter Olympic medal hopes. Lindsey Vonn, the most decorated U.S. racer ever, has pulled out of the Games due to her bum right knee. That’s not only a severe loss on the competitive side, but the Sochi Games, less than a month away, could have predictably been all-Vonn, all-the-time for the telegenic athletic. She has become the face of skiing in the U.S., if almost perhaps the world. And the Sochi Games more than any other, were shaping up to be the first fully socialized, live streamed, 24/7-watched Winter Olympics.
Vonn originally injured the knee in a super G race at the World Championships last season in Schladming, Austria. She appeared to have successful surgery and rehab, but then she reinjured the knee during a training run in November at the U.S. Ski Team’s Speed Center at Copper Mountain, Colo.
Vonn, and Team officials, were quiet about the details and status of her recovery, as she skipped the first several races this season, and returned to the circuit at Lake Louise, Alberta. But the knee appeared to buckle just before Christmas during a downhill at Val d’Isere, France. That was it.
Vonn announced this morning through her publicist and on her Facebook page that she would not compete at Sochi. What a loss, both for the world skiing community heading into the Olympics, but also for the Ski Team’s “Best in the World” efforts. Vonn is the reigning women’s downhill champion (Vancouver), and also won a bronze in the super-G at those Games. If she was fully recovered, Vonn would have been a medal threat in downhill, super-G, and perhaps giant slalom as well. The U.S. Ski Team quickly reacted that Vonn will now be targeting the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships at her home mountains in Vail/Beaver Creek next season, with surgery scheduled soon on the knee.
“In looking ahead, I have every ounce of confidence that Lindsey will be in the starting gate next World Cup season ready to compete. 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,” said U.S. Ski Team president Bill Marolt, who is retiring after the Sochi Olympics, and has to be frustrated on having his top star forced to pull out of his last signature event.
“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. Now is the time for those athletes to step up towards our Best in the World vision.”
The injury puts a delay in Vonn’s growing legacy. At the top of the list, with 59 World Cup wins, Vonn was only four victories away from surpassing Annemarie Moser-Proll’s record of 62 career wins as the most decorated female racer ever. Even if she wasn’t in absolute top form, Vonn had every reasonable expectation to break the record this season. She’s that good.