Source: USA TODAY
The news wasn’t good for Olympic gold medalist Lindsey Vonn on Wednesday. With less than three months to go until the Sochi Winter Olympic Games, her right knee is injured again, severely enough so that she needs to “rest for a few days,” according to her publicist.
Rest? Vonn doesn’t do that well. Her idea of taking a few days off is tearing around a golf course in a walking cast following boyfriend Tiger Woods.
But if she is to have any chance to make it to Sochi, she’s going to have to spend valuable time not on a mountain, not on her skis – but with her leg propped up. It’s exactly where she didn’t want to be with so little time remaining before next February’s Olympics.
And it’s not what network and Olympic executives want either. Vonn’s comeback from a gruesome injury in a crash in February will be the story of the Olympics from a U.S. point of view – if she gets there. That’s more in doubt today than it has been at any time during her nine-month rehabilitation.
After crashing in a training run Tuesday in Colorado, Vonn, 29, “sustained a mild strain to her right knee, a partial tear to her right ACL, minor facial abrasions and scapular contusions from her fall.” That’s the official statement from her camp.
Now here’s what she has to do: After the “rest” comes “aggressive physical therapy.” How she responds to that treatment will tell her when she is able to compete.
If there’s an over-under on how much time that will be, take the under.
That’s because if there is anyone who can come back from a horrible crash in February followed by another big crash this week and make it to Sochi in time to compete, it’s Vonn. She is fearless. It’s why she’s so good, and it’s what we so admire in her. She wouldn’t want it any other way, and neither would we.
As she recently told USA TODAY Sports’ Kelly Whiteside, “I like to do things fast. I drive a car too fast. I jet ski too fast. I’m pretty fearless all around.”
This new injury opens Vonn up to the kinds of questions we’ve been asking lately of the likes of Adrian Peterson, Robert Griffin III and Kobe Bryant. Have they rushed back from serious injury too quickly? The answers vary; the questions always are valid.
Even if Vonn has pushed herself too hard too fast, who can blame her? AD and RGIII and Kobe play sports in which there are games every week of the season. Vonn and her Olympic colleagues get one shot every four years. So if Peterson and Griffin and Bryant can hurry back, why not Vonn? A chance to compete in another Olympics, and to defend her downhill title, is worth the effort, even if it fails in the end.
Competing while injured is what Vonn does better than almost anyone in sports. Any journalist who has covered Olympic skiing has a favorite Lindsey Vonn moment involving injury – or peril, at the very least. Mine comes from the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino. In training for the women’s downhill, she suffered a serious crash (of course), was airlifted off the mountain and spent the night in a hospital.
Two days later, she was back, skiing 70 miles per hour and finishing eighth in the Olympic downhill.
Now that she’s spending so much time around the PGA Tour, an interesting contrast has presented itself: Whenever you hear someone marvel about a golfer’s “courage” or “guts” when hitting a shot over the water, or making a difficult sand save, you might remind them what Vonn does.
At the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, questions about Vonn’s health followed her all the way to the start of the downhill. She raced with a severely bruised shin, yet she won by more than half a second.
Who wouldn’t want to see something like that again in February in Sochi? It would be the marquee event of the Olympics for a U.S. audience. The most successful female ski racer in American history at the top of the mountain, racing down, always a split-second from disaster? The sports media – and Woods — waiting at the bottom?
It almost sounds too good to be true. Here’s hoping it’s not.