GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany – Lindsey Vonn put aside her competitive instincts and made the difficult decision of withdrawing from the slalom portion of the super-combined at the world championships on Friday because of the lingering effects of a concussion.
She hopes to defend her title in the downhill on Sunday, then take an early flight home.
“I’m 90 percent sure that I will be going home after the downhill,” Vonn said.
Vonn completed the downhill leg of the super-combined and finished an uncharacteristic 12th. After “skiing in a fog,” Vonn watched the slalom leg in a dark and quiet room on doctor’s orders.
After the downhill Sunday, she’ll likely skip the remaining slalom and giant slalom events.
In hindsight, she said she shouldn’t have raced in the super-G on Tuesday – she placed seventh – but was too stubborn to pull out. She didn’t make the same mistake on Friday.
“I accept now I can’t do anything about (the concussion), but I’m not going to race if I don’t feel safe and I don’t feel 100 percent,” she said. “I don’t feel 100 percent yet, so it’s really the only decision that I can make, and unfortunately it’s the hardest one to make.”
Vonn was in contention on the top section of the course, but gradually dropped behind as she made her way down.
“Unfortunately, I lost focus about three-quarters, halfway down the course,” Vonn said. “It wasn’t as bad as it was in the super-G by any means, but I definitely felt it still.”
Vonn landed on her head during giant slalom training last week in Austria.
“It’s like skiing in a fog,” she said. “The reaction isn’t there. I’m just kind of slow and I’m not able to be aggressive. Things kind of come at me, and I feel like I can’t really do anything. It’s kind of hard to explain, but it’s not a great feeling.”
Vonn skied despite a severely bruised shin to win gold in downhill and bronze in super-G at the Vancouver Olympics. A head injury is different.
“You could basically tie my arm behind my back and I would still be racing – anything else I could deal with,” she said. “There’s not much I can do with this – just wait and see and hope for the best. It’s unfortunately the way life goes sometimes.”
U.S. women’s team head physician William Sterett has been performing concussion exams on Vonn several times daily – all of which she has passed – but he’s still advising her to give her brain a rest.
So much so, Vonn couldn’t watch her fellow racers in the slalom leg. Austria’s Anna Fenninger won the super-combined ahead of Slovenia’s Tina Maze and Sweden’s Anja Paerson.
“The doctors say the only thing you can do really for a concussion is to stay in a dark room with not very much stimulation,” she said. “I would love to be in the finish, but I don’t think that’s the right move to be healthy for (today) and Sunday.”
Vonn and the rest of the field will miss the final downhill training run today. It was canceled Friday to protect the course from damage because of warm weather and soft snow.
“At least now I’ve skied the run in my downhill suit,” she said of Friday’s downhill portion of the super-combi. “I know the speeds, I know the bumps, I know the line, so I’m feeling confident from that aspect.
“It’s just a matter of really being able to focus from top to bottom, and that’s really all that’s missing right now.”