- Written by Ben Jacklet
- Category: Alpine Olympics/World Cup
- Published: August 29, 2013
- Last Updated: October 17, 2013
Editor's note: This article was updated on October 16 to reflect Lindsey Vonn's recent announcement that she could return to World Cup racing as early as October 26.
You've probably heard a lot about Lindsey Vonn lately. Some of what you heard might even have to do with her being one of the greatest ski racers in history. Unfortunately not so much. Most of the hype has centered around her romance with a very good golfer, which earned her the dubious honor of making the front page of the National Enquirer. Not surprisingly, the Enquirer didn't even touch on her real story.
It's a story of guts and focus: a harrowing crash in harsh conditions in Austria, followed by a stunningly fast recuperation that only the most determined of athletes could accomplish. Plus all the trappings of celebrity, and questions about her training relationship to a German doctor who was formerly convicted on doping charges.
Vonn was on a roll in February. She had bounced back from a nagging illness to win the downhill in Cortina d'Ampezzo and the giant slalom in Maribor, Slovenia. She went into the World Championships in Schladming, Austria as the favorite. Visibility was poor as she launched into her Super-G run with her usual fearless abandon.
If you haven't seen the video of her crash, here it is.
Vonn was winched up by helicopter and airlifted to the nearest hospital with a tibial plateau fracture and two torn ligaments in her right knee, the anterior cruciate and the medial collateral.
While recuperating from her injuries, Vonn has gone through several ordeals. The first involves her romance with a very good golfer, which has given the supermarket tabloids new subject to fill the gaps in between Kardashian updates. The second could be more serious, or it could be just another form of hype. A major investigative piece by the New York Daily News in May raised questions about Vonn's training regimen with her major sponsor Red Bull, in particular a training center in Austria run by a disgraced former East German Olympic coach who was convicted on doping charges. Not long after the article ran, Vonn was ambushed at a fashion event in New York by International Olympic Committee staffers who forced her to pee in a cup for drug testing.
Vonn has never failed a drug test, and the investigation by the Daily News found no evidence of doping.
Meanwhile, in between the ambushes by paparazzi and muckrakers and the photo sessions with Annie Leibovitz, Vonn continued to do what she does best: train. Her training combines cycling, core exercises, weight lifting, tight-rope walking and agility drills, and she trains with the same focused intensity that first distinguished her from the pack as the 10-year-old heir-apparent to Picabo Street, ripping through the gates in summer training on Mount Hood. Just months after a potentially career-ending crash, she passed her strength tests, earned medical approval to return to the slopes, and headed to Chile to ski herself back into shape.
Here she is in a GoPro-shot Facebook selfie, knees looking as powerful as ever and skiing without fear:
Vonn, who will turn 29 on October 18, is edging closer to a return to international competition. She recently told the Associated Press that she could return to World Cup racing as early as October 26 in Austria. There seems little doubt that she will be ready to defend her Olympic gold medal in Sochi, Russia in February 2014.
Time will tell how the trauma of her crash and all the hype surrounding her personal life will affect Lindsey Vonn as she immerses herself into the pressure-cooker of Olympic pressure. But I wouldn't bet against her in Sochi. Would you?