VAIL — Olympic downhill champion Lindsey Vonn announced on Tuesday that she is pulling out of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics due to a knee injury that has plagued her for most of the current season.
“I am devastated to announce that I will not be able to compete in Sochi,” Vonn, 29, wrote on her Facebook page on Tuesday morning. “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.”
Vonn had originally injured her right knee when she tore two ligaments in during a high-speed crash at the world championships last February, sidelining her for about 10 months. She re-tore her surgically repaired ACL in a training crash in November, a key setback. Then, after returning to competition in early December by finishing 40th, 11th and fifth in a set of World Cup races at Lake Louise, Alberta, Vonn sprained her MCL during a race at Val d’Isere, France, last month.
Vonn skied out of the race, clutching her knee in pain in the World Cup downhill race.
“I didn’t hurt myself more than I’m already hurt,” Vonn said after Val d’Isere. “The thing is I have no ACL. So unless I get surgery there’s nothing really magical that I can do that’s going to make it better. I just can get my leg stronger, my muscle stronger and try and support it a little more. But that has a small impact. My knee is loose and it’s not stable and that’s the way it’s going to be from here on out. I just have to get used to it.”
A statement issued by her publicist said that Vonn plans to repair the knee and refocus on the 2015 World Championships in Vail.
“(The injuries) made it impossible to stabilize her knee and be ready to safely ski again next month,” the statement said. “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 andBeaver Creek.”
Vonn will have her surgery in Vail and wrote on her Facebook post that she’ll be supporting her teammates — as a spectator —come February.
“On a positive note, this means there will be an additional spot so that one of my teammates can go for gold,” she 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!”
The injury also means that Vonn will have to wait to get three more wins to match Austrian skier Annemarie Moser-Proell’s record of 62 victories in World Cup races.
In Vail, where Vonn lives and trained in her formative years, there was both support and disappointment at the news.
Eagle-Vail local and World Cup slalom champion Mikaela Shiffrin tweeted, “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.”
Former U.S. Ski Team member and Vail resident Sarah Schleper expressed support, saying she was proud of Vonn’s decision.
“I think it’s the smartest decision she could have made. She already has a gold medal, and I really want her to go for the record (for World Cup wins),” said Schleper. “I’m proud of her for trying, and she maybe realized she could hurt it a lot worse by having her knee not at 100 percent.”
For fans, of which she has many in Vail, it is a disappointment to see Vonn out for the season. Nellie Talbot, 14, ski races for Ski & Snowboard Club Vail, and said she has always looked up to Vonn.
“I’ve seen her around the club, and she’s really encouraging and nice,” said Talbot. “It’s fun to watch her. I heard the news from friends at the club this morning. I thought that its sad, with her recovery so well and all.”
And then there’s the 2015 World Championships, where many Vail supporters hope Vonn can stage a comeback. Ceil Folz, of the Vail Valley Foundation, which is organizing the championships, said she wishes Vonn a speedy and full recovery.
“While we can only imagine how tough this realization and decision must be for Lindsey, at the end of the day, her health and wellbeing are the most important things to keep in mind,” said Folz. “We wish her a successful surgery and speedy recovery, and we look forward to seeing her in the starting gate for the 2015 World Championships in Vail and Beaver Creek.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong an be reached at 970-748-2927 and firstname.lastname@example.org.