Luca Bruno/Associated Press
Luca Bruno/Associated Press
SCHLADMING, Austria – Lindsey Vonn will head home for surgery in Colorado next week after tearing two ligaments in her right knee and breaking a bone in her lower leg in a crash at the World Championships.
Vonn said Wednesday she plans to compete in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, which start in 12 months. She was released from the hospital late Tuesday and returned to the team hotel.
“I am grateful to my fans for the outpouring of support, which has really helped me stay positive,” Vonn said in a statement. “I can assure you that I will work as hard as humanly possible to be ready to represent my country next year in Sochi.”
The Olympic downhill champion will have surgery next week in Vail. Because of intense media attention, neither she nor the U.S. Ski Team would say when she’s leaving Austria.
“She’ll be heading back to Vail, and I will be doing surgery on her knee early next week,” team physician William Sterett said Wednesday. “Lindsey is doing well. She’s in good spirits.”
Sterett would not set a return date to skiing for Vonn until after the surgery, but other doctors believe she will be sidelined for up to eight months.
Vonn wants to be back for the World Cup speed races in Lake Louise, Alberta, in late November or early December, a course she has won 14 times on.
“She’s got her mind set; she’s going to come back stronger than she was,” Alpine director Patrick Riml said. “She’s got her goal – ‘I’ll be back in Lake Louise’ – and Lindsey will do whatever it takes to be back.”
Vonn tore her anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament in her right knee. The broken bone was described as a lateral tibial plateau fracture.
“The fracture is called an impaction fracture,” Sterett said. “It should not require any surgery. It just needs to be nonweight on crutches.”
The accident happened after Vonn landed a jump in the opening super-G race at the championships. As she hit the ground, her right leg gave way and she spun forward, throwing an arm out to protect herself. She ended up on her back as she smashed through a gate.
“The hospital staff did an excellent job with X-rays, (magnetic resonance imaging),” Sterett said. “She had very good care, and they were very, very helpful.”
Sterett said Vonn was “a little banged up and sore everywhere” the day after the crash.
“She’s intently focusing on the next step, and the next step now is getting from Point A to Point B, with Point B being next season,” he said. “She’s determined and upbeat.”
U.S. speed coach Chip White also found Vonn motivated by her injury.
“Last night she was (angry), but she was also positive that she’s coming back, and she’s going to come back strong,” he said. “We’re looking forward to her return. She’s a great competitor and always will be.
“She has that determination. If she wants to be (as strong as before), she will be.”
Sterett left open the possibility of Vonn requiring more than one surgery, saying that with these types of injuries “that’s always a possibility.”
However, the plan now only was one operation.
“I want to say thank you to the amazing medical staff that cared for me,” Vonn said. “I plan on returning to Vail as soon as I can to have the necessary surgeries.”