Olympic downhill champion Lindsey Vonn will not compete at the Sochi Olympics and will have surgery soon to repair damage to her right knee stemming from a crash while training at Copper Mountain in November.

Vonn made the announcement Tuesday through her publicist and an update on her Facebook page. Vonn wrote that she is "devastated" by having to miss what would have been her fourth Olympics.

"I did everything I possibly could to somehow get strong enough to overcome having no ACL, but the reality has sunk in that my knee is just too unstable to compete at this level," Vonn posted. "I'm having surgery soon so that I can be ready for the world championships at home in Vail next February. On a positive note, this means there will be an additional spot so that one of my teammates can go for gold."

Reigning Olympic downhill champion Lindsey Vonn, center, is helped off the slope at Copper Mountain.
Reigning Olympic downhill champion Lindsey Vonn, center, is helped off the slope at Copper Mountain. (Maris Van Slyke, The Associated Press)

Vonn injured her right knee racing super-G at the world championships last year in Schladming, Austria, suffering a torn ACL, a torn MCL and a tibial plateau fracture. She had surgery in Vail, rehabbed well and seemed convinced her comeback was ahead of schedule entering the World Cup season.

But on Nov. 19 while training super-G at Copper, she crashed at close to 60 mph and reinjured the knee. At the time, her injury was diagnosed as a "partial" tear of the ACL.

Vonn skipped the first five races of this season but returned to competition the first weekend of December at Lake Louise, Alberta, finishing 40th and 11th in a pair of downhills and fifth in a super-G. She skipped three more races, and then on Dec. 21 at Val d'Isere, France, she stopped in the middle of a downhill after her knee "gave out."

"After the incident in Val d'Isere, an MRI showed an MCL sprain, which coupled with the torn ACL, has made it impossible to stabilize her knee and be ready to safely ski again next month," publicist Lewis Kay wrote in a statement. "She will have surgery shortly and is expected to make a full recovery in time for the 2014-15 World Cup season and the 2015 World Alpine Ski Championships in Vail-Beaver Creek."

FILE - In this Feb. 3, 2013, file photo, U.S. ski racer Lindsey Vonn watches during a news conference in view of the Alpine Skiing World Championships, in
FILE - In this Feb. 3, 2013, file photo, U.S. ski racer Lindsey Vonn watches during a news conference in view of the Alpine Skiing World Championships, in Schladming, Austria. (Luca Bruno, AP)

Vonn won the downhill at the Vancouver Olympics and claimed a bronze medal in super-G. If fully healthy, she would have been favored to win medals in downhill, super-G and super combined at Sochi, and would have been regarded as a contender in giant slalom as well. The news came as a big blow to the U.S. Ski Team, though probably not a surprise given the nature of her injury.

"In looking ahead, I have every ounce of confidence that Lindsey will be in the starting gate next World Cup season ready to compete," ski team chief executive Bill Marolt said. "She knows the hard work it takes to get to the top and still has significant goals to achieve in what has been an incredible career.

"While Lindsey won't be in Sochi, we have a strong team that is well prepared to challenge. The women's speed team is experienced with five athletes who have achieved World Cup podiums and a seasoned veteran in Julia Mancuso, who has won three Olympic medals in her career. Now is the time for those athletes to step up towards our 'Best in the World' vision."

One of those racers is Eagle-Vail's Mikaela Shiffrin, 18, who will be a strong contender in GS and slalom. She is the reigning world champion and World Cup champion in slalom.

The women's downhill team has been a disappointment this season, though. Mancuso hasn't finished better than 12th and failed to finish two of her 12 races.

Last season the U.S. women dominated in downhill with five racers making the podium. This season, none of them have a top-10 finish in downhill, and in super-G they have only two — Vonn's fifth at Lake Louise and Leanne Smith's sixth in the same race.

John Meyer: 303-954-1616, jmeyer@denverpost.com or twitter.com/johnmeyer