VAIL — The Sochi Olympics ended five weeks ago, ski racing season is over, most racers are looking forward to some R&R and golf season has begun. But Lindsey Vonn remains frustrated and impatient because her second round of knee rehabilitation in two years is delaying her return to normal training.
It was hard for her to watch Sochi unfold without her, and now she's stuck in rehabilitation when she'd rather be working out with her focus on the 2015 world championships at Beaver Creek.
"I'm past the Olympics. I've moved on and I'm looking forward to the world championships next year here at home, but the pace of the rehab is frustrating," Vonn said Friday. "I want to throw around big weights. I want to feel myself getting stronger. Doing clamshells (exercises) with a Thera-Band is not exactly an awesome training experience. I understand the importance of it, but I want to start working hard. It's hard to get motivated to do the small stuff."
Vonn ruptured the ACL in her right knee in February 2013 and tore it again training at Copper Mountain in November after crashing at an estimated 60 to 65 mph. Vonn said the previous ACL injury did not cause the crash.
"It was a really bad crash," Vonn said. "Either way, it (the ACL) would have been gone. It was pretty gnarly. It was a perfectly sunny day but (the course) kind of dropped into this hole where it was completely in the shade, and the snow changed — it was soft and broken up. My ski just caught; I pretty much did the splits and completely maxed out my right knee. I went face-first into the nets."
She raced at Lake Louise, Alberta, in December hoping she could make her knee hold up for Sochi, but two weeks later she sprained the right MCL racing in France and "shredded" meniscus because the ACL wasn't functional.
"At first I was extremely upset. I didn't know what to do," Vonn said. "Then I tried to regroup and figure out a plan: How can I make this work? How can I keep skiing? We tried to come up with a good plan, so I still had hope, a glimmer of hope. I never gave up hope all the way up until the day I decided I can't do it anymore."
In January she accepted the inevitable, announced she would not compete in Sochi and had the knee repaired surgically. During the Games she appeared on NBC's "Today" show in New York but refused to watch the women's downhill and super-G, events she would have been heavily favored to win if healthy.
"I just couldn't do it," Vonn said.
Vonn has 59 World Cup victories, only three shy of the women's record held by Annemarie Moser-Proell. Vonn is adamant that she will race through the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pye- ongChang, South Korea, though some speculated that she would retire after the world championships next February at age 30.
"If I had raced in Sochi, that probably would have been the case," said Vonn, the 2010 Olympic downhill champion. "Having not raced in Sochi, that totally changed everything. Barring anything (bad) happening, I'm committed to another four years. Even if I do well next year at the world championships, I want to be able to have an opportunity to 'defend' my gold medal."