BEAVER CREEK, Colorado — Lindsey Vonn walked freely without crutches Saturday, even ascending a few stairs to honor award recipients on stage at Beaver Creek.
The champion ski racer underwent knee surgery in February after severely injuring herself during a super-G race at the World Championships in Schladming, Austria.
Julia Littman, public relations coordinator at Beaver Creek, said Vonn had been moving freely all day.
“She said it was her second day off crutches,” Littman said.
Vonn's surgery was performed locally by Dr. William Sterett, a longtime doctor of Vonn's, at Vail-Summit Orthopaedics.
“We've started to ween her off crutches this whole week,” Sterett said on Thursday.
Sterett said it's his fault that it's taken Vonn this long to drop the crutches.
“She's been chomping at the bit for the last month to be off crutches,” he said. “I get text messages from her every other day saying she want to do x, y and z and push the boundaries. It's been me keeping her off crutches because of her injuries, not because she feels like she needs to be on crutches”
During public appearances at Vail and Beaver Creek on Friday and Saturday, Vonn walked slowly, but didn't appear to need extra assistance.
“You might see her with no crutches, hopefully she has one crutch with her, but she's still definitely getting a little stiff, a little swollen and a little sore,” Sterett said. “We really have to monitor [her schedule], we've got a great team of therapists that are keeping an eye on her — the first sign of increased swelling or increased pain we're going to ratchet that back and be the bad guys. She's such a kind person that she just wants to say yes and be there for everybody ... if it were up to her she'd be there for everything. We have to try to kind of pull the reins back.”
On Friday night during a homecoming celebration for Vonn in Vail Village, the 2012-13 World Cup downhill champion told a crowd of 1,000 or so that the 2014 Olympics in Sochi were keeping her motivated.
“I think sometimes being injured makes you realize how lucky you are to be able to do what you love to do,” Vonn said. “I love ski racing, and I love winning. I'm going to represent you guys well in Sochi, and I'm going to bring home the gold again.”
Sterett said he's been having weekly conversations with Vonn about when she will be able to click into her skis again.
“I know very well she's going to be pushing me early summer, wanting to get on snow,” he said. “The goals set aren't dependent on how hard Lindsey works. A lot of the goals have to be based on Mother Nature and biology, because the new ACL takes a certain amount of time to remodel and get stronger ... She won't put a pair of ski boots on until late summer.”
Sterett said now that Vonn is mostly off her crutches, they can start the strengthening part of her recovery.
“The next six or eight weeks will be double leg strengthening and then we'll be able to progress to more single leg or sport specific, where the body will learn to be able to accept a load going side to side or forward and backward,” he said. “It's also just learning to just trust the knee again. Eventually we'll get to the final phase of strengthening where we're trying to work her back up to equal strength relative to the other side. Once we're able to get her strength equalized in her right and left legs, that's when we can start doing more of the cutting and twisting activities, and once she's able to pass some of those functional tests late in the summer, that's when we'll be able to get her back on snow.”
We\'ve started to ween her off crutches this whole week