For the second time in 10 months, Lindsey Vonn's Olympic fortunes have been dealt a significant blow.
Vonn suffered a partially torn anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee in a Tuesday training crash, according to a statement released by her publicist, Lewis Kay. It's the same knee Vonn injured in February, when a nasty crash at the world championships caused tears of her ACL and MCL and a tibial plateau fracture.
"Lindsey sustained a mild strain to her right knee, a partial tear to her right ACL, minor facial abrasions and scapular contusions from her fall," Kay said Wednesday. "She needs to rest for a few days and then will pursue aggressive physical therapy and will determine the next time she is able to compete after seeing how she responds to the treatment."
The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association medical director Kyle Wilkens said Vonn's response to therapy would determine her timetable for future training.
Neither Kay nor the USSA specified the severity of the tear. Commonly dubbed knee sprains, a "grade one" ACL tear has seen elite-level NFL players return to action as quickly as four to eight weeks. Grade two and three tears can require surgery and rehabilitation ranging as long as a year. The Sochi Olympics begin in a little more than 11 weeks.
It's a serious setback in what Vonn was describing less than two weeks ago as her "comeback" story for the Sochi Games. Nearing the apex of her training return, Vonn said earlier this month that she was already back to an elite level in training runs in the super-G. Asked if she was confident she could win World Cup races in the event right now, Vonn said on Nov. 8: "Yes. I'm saying that."
At the time she had slated her return to take place in a World Cup event next week in Beaver Creek, Colo., with a timetable to reach her peak skiing level heading into the Sochi games next February. But with elite downhill skiing requiring top-level strength and stamina, the clock is ticking on Vonn's opportunities to get enough training to get her body ready for the rigors of the super-G, downhill and giant slalom. Vonn won a gold medal in the downhill and a bronze in the super-G in the Vancouver games in 2010.
With one of the best dry land training regimens in U.S. skiing, Vonn has already shown the ability to aggressively rebound from major injury. After her injury in the world championships, a cautious timetable aimed for this month for her return to a full training load. However, Vonn was back on skis in August and was far ahead of schedule in her training when this month began.
On her way to becoming arguably the greatest female World Cup skier in history, Vonn has taken the top of the podium in all of the disciplines on the circuit, including super-G, downhill, slalom, giant slalom and combined. She appeared to be in condition to win World Cup events in December and January, prior to Tuesday's crash.
The Olympic ski team will be named on Jan. 26. Coaches have the ability to add Vonn to any events at their own discretion if she is not among the top finishers in speed trials.
Charles Robinson will be covering Olympic skiing at the 2014 Sochi Games. You can follow him on Twitter at @CharlesRobinson