Lindsey Vonn plans surgery next week, intends to compete at Sochi
Lindsey Vonn, of the U.S., poses with her silver medal during the victory ceremony of the women's downhill, at the Alpine World Skiing Championships in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, in this 2011 file photo. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)
The Associated Press
Published Wednesday, February 6, 2013 9:45AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, February 6, 2013 12:21PM EST
SCHLADMING, Austria -- Lindsey Vonn is determined to be back competing for medals at next year's Sochi Olympics despite her season-ending knee injury after a crash.
According to the U.S. Ski Team's Alpine director, she's even hoping to start racing again in late November or early December.
Vonn tore two ligaments in her right knee and broke a bone in her lower leg in the opening race of the world championships, and the reigning Olympic downhill champion will undergo surgery in the U.S. next week.
"I am grateful to my fans for the outpouring of support, which has really helped me stay positive," Vonn said in a statement on Wednesday, a day after her super-G crash in Schladming. "I can assure you that I will work as hard as humanly possible to be ready to represent my country next year in Sochi."
Because of the 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 (Colorado) and I will be doing surgery on her knee early next week," team physician William Sterett told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
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 mindset, she's going to come back stronger than she was," Alpine director Pattrick Riml told the AP. "She's got her goal -- 'I'll be back in Lake Louise' -- and Lindsey will do whatever it takes to be back."
Vonn was released from the local hospital late Tuesday and returned to the team hotel.
"Lindsey is doing well," Sterett said. "She's in good spirits."
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 non-weight on crutches."
The accident came after Vonn landed off a jump in the opening race at the championships, the super-G. As she hit the ground, her right leg gave way and she spun down face first, 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, MRI," Sterett said. "She had very good care and they were very, very helpful."
Sterett said Vonn was "a little banged up, and sore everywhere."
"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 to battle through 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," he added. "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 for now was only 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."