Lindsey Vonn’s ability to defend her Olympic downhill skiing gold medal is in doubt after she partially tore a ligament in her surgically repaired right knee during a training run.
Vonn, a 29-year-old American, sustained a partial tear to the anterior cruciate ligament, a mild strain to the knee, minor facial scrapes and shoulder bruises in a fall yesterday at the U.S. Ski Team’s Speed Center at Copper Mountain, Colorado, Lewis Kay, her spokesman,said in an e-mailed statement.
“She needs to rest for a few days and then will pursue physical therapy and will determine the next time she is able to compete after seeing how she responds to the treatment,” Kay said.
A partial ACL tear can be same thing as a strained knee ligament, and if it’s a mild strain Vonn could be fully healed in a month, said James Gladstone, an orthopaedic surgeon at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York.
“Until we have a better definition of what the actual injuries are, it’s really hard to say,” Gladstone, co-chief of sports medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine, who is not personally familiar with Vonn’s case, said in a telephone interview.
Vonn, who won the gold medal in the women’s downhill at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, was planning to defend the title when the Winter Olympics begin in Sochi, Russia, in 84 days. A four-time World Cup overall champion who has won six straight downhill season titles, Vonn tore the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in her right knee and broke a bone just below the joint in a February crash at the world championships.
“Clearly, she rehabs very well because having had the surgery in March or February she was potentially going to race her first World Cup race this coming week, which is only eight months out,” Gladstone said. “That right there is incredible, so if anyone has a chance to come back, I would think it would certainly be her.”
Vonn, who has been dating the world’s top-ranked golfer, Tiger Woods, needs four World Cup race wins to pass the record of 62 held by Annemarie Moser-Proell of Austria.