Lindsey Vonn’s surgically repaired right knee feels so good she could be racing again by the end of the month, five weeks earlier than she originally expected.
Vonn "reopened" the idea of competing in the season-opening World Cup event in Soelden, Austria, after returning to the slopes last month in Portillo, Chile. The World Cup in Soelden is Oct. 26-27.
"When I was looking at the plan and the timeline, it didn’t seem like it would be at all possible to do that," said Vonn, who appeared at the U.S. Olympic Committee media summit Wednesday via videoconference. "It’s because I’m feeling so strong and ready that I’m bringing that possibility back into the mix.
"It’s definitely a possibility at this point," she said. "I have to get over there and see how I feel."
The reigning Olympic downhill champion shredded her anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments during a crash at the world championships in Schladming, Austria, last February. The original timetable didn’t even have her in ski boots until November, but when the U.S. Ski Team traveled to Chile for its training camp, Vonn was there.
She didn’t waste any time, either, taking two runs shortly after she landed Aug. 31.
"I was definitely pretty amped to get on snow," she said. "It was a long wait for those first couple of runs, but it was definitely worth it."
Vonn said her knee held up perfectly, with no pain or swelling while she was in Chile — or since then.
"Things are definitely further along than I anticipated," she said. "But I’m not going to race until I’m absolutely 100 percent."
And that last hurdle is purely mental.
Vonn doesn’t expect to race slalom because of the additional stress it puts on her knee, and is focusing instead on the downhill and speed events, her specialties. But she hasn’t gotten back to race speed yet — no small thing for someone who easily can hit 80 mph as she hurtles down the mountain.
Though Vonn said she has no doubt her knee will hold up when she does, it’s the last question in her extensive recovery.
"It’s a matter of breaking through the unknown," she said. "I haven’t tried to simulate the race yet."
Vonn is in Ohio, where boyfriend Tiger Woods is playing in the Presidents Cup. She plans to head to Europe in the middle of the month for more training, and said she’ll probably make a decision about Soelden "a few days" before the World Cup begins.
If she doesn’t race in Soelden, she’ll "for sure" be at the World Cup in Beaver Creek, Colo., which is near her hometown of Vail.
"It’s not that I don’t trust my knee or feel 100 percent physically up to par. But I haven’t pushed it to that next level yet," Vonn said. "But I’m confident when I do, it’s going to be good."
The rest of the world should consider itself warned.
The Sochi Games may have looked like a long shot when Vonn was injured. But she has no doubt that not only will she be at the Olympics come February, she’ll once again be the one to beat.
"I know I can win a medal," she said. "I look forward to defending my title in Sochi."