Top U.S. Olympic ski star suffers injury in crash
Vancouver Olympic favorite Lindsey Vonn bruised a bone in her left arm following a crash on the opening run of a World Cup giant slalom on Monday.
Vonn had X-ray and MRI scans at a hospital before returning to the U.S. team hotel with her arm in a splint. According to U.S. team medical director Richard Quincy, the scans showed no fractures, only a bone bruise.
"It’s not a classic broken wrist, but a swelling," said doctor Eduard Sporer of the Lienz district hospital, who added Vonn might be able to race in Tuesday’s slalom. "She’s got a lot of pain now, but if she feels well she could start."
Vonn’s husband Thomas said the "bone almost broke."
"It has tiny stress fractures inside and massive internal bruising and swelling," he said. "Basically what it means is she can ski as soon as she can handle the pain. She will be testing it out tomorrow morning to see if she can race in the slalom."
Vonn started 15th and made a couple of mistakes in the early part of her run, falling more than a second behind the leading time set by Kathrin Hoelzl of Germany. After a sharp left turn, the American lost her balance on a bump and fell backward, hitting a gate and losing a ski.
The two-time World Cup overall champion remained down for almost 10 minutes while receiving first aid. Vonn eventually stood up, put her skis back on and made it to the bottom of the hill with her left arm in a sling.
"My arm really hurts," Vonn said as she climbed into an ambulance and headed to the hospital for tests. "I don’t know what has happened. I believe it’s broken."
Turns out that wasn’t the case. Trevor Wagner, the technical coach of the U.S. team, said Vonn was still considering a run at the slalom on Tuesday.
"I’m going to talk to her, but it’s up to her," Wagner said.
U.S. women’s speed coach Alex Hoedlmoser was not at the race but was with Vonn for training the past two days.
"It was just a bumper, I guess, and it looked worse than it was," Hoedlmoser said.
With the Vancouver Olympics looming, Hoedlmoser suggested it might be a good idea to skip the slalom.
"It definitely would make sense looking at the bigger picture for her to rest for a couple of days," he said. "But I know Lindsey, and I know she wants to race. It all depends on how painful it is."
Vonn was coming off a successful weekend in Val D’Isere, France, where a victory in the super combined and a third-place finish in a super-G helped her to reclaim the sole lead of the overall World Cup standings ahead of friend and rival Maria Riesch of Germany.
Riesch, who started immediately after Vonn, was distracted by the crash and missed a gate on the middle section of the partly icy Schlossberg course.
"It’s hard to stay focused and keep your concentration during such a break," said Riesch, who trails Vonn by 50 points in the overall standings.
Vonn skied the final part of last season despite a right thumb injury she sustained at the world championships in February. She needed surgery after cutting a tendon on a broken champagne bottle and raced with her pole taped to her glove for the rest of the season.
"Luckily, we already have a bit of experience with one-handed ski racing," Thomas Vonn said. "All in all, the best outcome given the situation. Everyone was pretty sure it was fully broken."
The 25-year-old Vonn, who lives and trains in Vail, Colo., has been considered a medal contender in all five Alpine events during the Olympics: downhill, super-G, slalom, GS and super combined (one downhill run and one slalom run).
If she had been unable to ski in Vancouver, it would have been only the latest in a string of Olympic disappointments. Vonn finished with a sixth and 22nd in Salt Lake City in 2002, when she was only 17-years old, and was seventh, eighth and 14th four years later in Turin, Italy.
More than her finishes in Italy, though, Vonn may best be remembered for a highlight-reel crash in which she went tumbling during a downhill training run. After a quick trip to the hospital, Vonn was back racing about 48 hours later.
"It was, by far, the most pain I’ve ever been in my entire life, and one of the most devastating moments of my career," Vonn said earlier this month. "I wanted to do anything to get back out there. I went from the hospital to the start, and it definitely built my character up."
Vonn’s appearance in Vancouver is also important to Olympic sponsors, many of which have been building TV and Web ads around her in the run-up to the games. Television partner NBC has been giving fans a chance to design artwork for her racing helmet.