Jan 7, 2014, 8:31 AM EDT
Lindsey Vonn will miss the Sochi Olympics, saying her surgically repaired right knee could not get strong enough in time for the Winter Games in February.
Vonn, the 2010 Olympic downhill champion, released a statement Tuesday in an email from her publicist and on social media.
Vonn blew out her right knee at the World Championships last February. She returned to skiing on snow in late August and partially retore her right ACL in November.
She returned to competitive skiing in December but skied out of a race in Val d’Isere, France, on Dec. 21. She said her knee “completely gave out.”
On Dec. 21, Vonn said she thought her next race would be “sometime in January” and had not commented since.
“I’m at risk of doing more damage to my knee and my meniscus,” she said in Val d’Isere. “So I’m going to play it safe and race really minimal races. Probably one or two before the Olympics.”
U.S. Ski Team coaches offered more pessimistic comments Sunday.
“Her knee is very swollen, and it’s impossible for her to consider skiing for now,” U.S. Ski Team coach Alex Hoedlmoser said, according to Reuters.
“To race without a ligament is extremely risky and can have serious consequences,” U.S. Ski Team coach Patrick Riml added. ”If she was a young athlete, we would have stopped her already.”
Vonn, a three-time Olympian, will be 33 years old come the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. She has goals outside the Olympics to accomplish before then.
She has 59 career World Cup wins. She is second all-time among women behind Austrian Annemarie Moser-Proell, who had 62, and has long been thought to eventually break it, even with her major knee injuries.
The long-term goal is the men’s record held by Swedish legend Ingemar Stenmark, who won 86 races.
“I’ve already been thinking about that [men's record],” she said, according to Red Bulletin. “My current plan is to keep going until the 2015 World Cup. Then I’ll see how far away I am from that number and then I’ll decide what to do, whether I’ll keep going in every discipline or maybe just downhill and super-G and concentrate on that record.”
Vonn’s absence from Sochi shifts more of the skiing spotlight to Americans Mikaela Shiffrin, Ted Ligety and Bode Miller.
Shiffrin, 18, is a gold-medal favorite in the Olympic slalom and a contender in the giant slalom.
Ligety, a 2006 Olympic champion, won three gold medals at the 2013 World Championships and could win gold in the giant slalom in Sochi.
Miller, 36, eyes his fifth Olympics. He’s the most decorated U.S. Olympic skier with five medals and coming off 2012 knee surgery that caused him to miss the entire 2012-13 season.
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