Lindsey Vonn’s quest to defend her Olympic downhill skiing title ended Tuesday when she announced she would not compete at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games due to an injured right knee.
Vonn is the most successful skier in American history, having won 59 FIS World Cup races and 17 season titles, including four overall crowns. Her 59 victories are the third most in world cup history, behind only Switzerland’s Ingemar Stenmark (86) and Annemarie Moser-Proell of Austria (62). In addition to the Olympic gold medal she won in the downhill in Vancouver, she is also a two-time world champion and has three world championship silver medals and an Olympic bronze medal (super-G).
One of only six women to win a world cup race in all five alpine disciplines, Vonn led the world cup downhill standings when she crashed during the super-G in the 2013 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Schladming, Austria. She severely injured her knee in the crash but vowed to return in time for Sochi.
The timeline below details the major events in her effort to return:
Feb. 5 – Crashed in super-G in the opening event of the alpine skiing world championships. Had to be airlifted off the course and was later diagnosed with tears to the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in her right knee and a fractured shin in her right leg. Despite the season-ending injury, Vonn still won her sixth world cup downhill title with 340 points. She finished fourth in the super-G standings and eighth in the overall standings.
Feb. 10 – Dr. William Sterett of Vail-Summit Orthopaedics performed reconstructive knee surgery in Vail, Colo., at Vail Valley Medical Center.
March 18 – Announced she was dating golfer Tiger Woods
March 26 – Said she was down to using just one crutch.
April 7 – Posted on Facebook that she was doing “double leg squats already”
May 28 – Made post-operative visit to Dr. Sterett. Reported, “knee is looking good”
July 4-14 – Participated in training camp in Austrian Alps
Sept. 3 – Returned to skiing in Portillo, Chile
Sept. 5 – Skied super-G course in Chile
Oct. 2 – Announced via teleconference during the United States Olympic Committee’s 2013 Team USA Media Summit that she planned to make her world cup return in Soelden, Austria, in late October
Oct. 18 -- Traveled to Soelden for training and preparation for first race of world cup season. Decided against competing there.
Nov. 19 – Injured in downhill training crash in Copper Mountain, Colo. Suffered partial tear of anterior cruciate ligament in right knee.
Nov. 28 – Returned to slopes for first time since Copper Mountain crash
Dec. 4 – Participated in downhill training run in Lake Louise, Alberta (Canada)
Dec. 6 – Competed in Lake Louise World Cup downhill, her first competitive race since crash. Finished 40th.
Dec. 7 – Competed in second world cup downhill in as many days, finished 11th
Dec. 8 – Finished fifth in world cup super-G at Lake Louise
Dec. 18 – Finished 18th in downhill training at Val d’Isere, France
Dec. 21 – Skied off course during world cup downhill run in Val d’Isere clutching knee. Diagnosed with medial collateral ligament sprain. “I’m going to play it safe and race really minimal races,” she said. “Probably one or two before the Olympics.”
Jan. 4 – U.S. coach Alex Hoedlmoser announced Vonn “most likely” will skip world cup races in Altenmarkt-Zauchensee, Austria.
Jan. 7 – Announced she will not compete in the Sochi Winter Games. In a statement, she said: “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.”
Jan. 28 – Committed herself to racing through the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games.
Although Vonn will not be joining Team USA in Sochi, Vonn is expected to undergo surgery soon and possibly return to the slopes in time for the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships set for next February in Vail and Beaver Creek in Colorado.
Brian Trusdell is a freelance writer based in New York City. He covered six Olympic Games and three world cups for The Associated Press from 1992 to 2008. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.