Next month's Winter Games in Sochi just lost a lot of star power. Hampered by an ACL injury for the past year, United States skier Lindsey Vonn announced Tuesday morning that she will not compete in the 2014 Olympics. Here's the statement from Vonn's Facebook page:
I am devastated to announce that I will not be able to compete in Sochi. 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. 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. Thank you all so much for all of the love and support. I will be cheering for all of the Olympians and especially team USA! XO Lindsey
Vonn injured her knee last February in a devastating crash in Austria. She undertook one of the most aggressive rehab programs in sports, training over the summer to return to the slopes this winter. But she suffered several setbacks, including an accident in November. Ultimately, as Vonn realized, her injuries were too severe to overcome in order to acquit herself in Olympic competitions.
Vonn's absence from the Games will resonate far beyond her team. After winning a gold and a bronze in Vancouver in 2010, she was expected to be the focus of the Games' coverage, which values storylines and star power as much as athletic prowess. Vonn and her boyfriend, Tiger Woods, likely would have been the focus of nonstop coverage while in Sochi. In other words, the Olympics just lost a compelling access point for many casual viewers of the Games.
Still, it's a good bet she'll be in Sochi regardless; she's photogenic and knowledgeable, and NBC will likely hire her as an analyst. That would serve to keep Vonn in the public eye, a move that will surely warm the hearts of her nervous sponsors.
For Vonn herself, the major question now is what lies ahead. She indicated that she will continue to compete in the highly prestigious world championships, but her time as an Olympic-level competitor is almost surely done. By the time the 2018 Games in South Korea rolls around, Vonn will be 33. By then, it will be 16 years since she first competed as a member of the United States Olympic team; her window will almost surely have closed.