CORTINA D’AMPEZZO, Italy – What was evident all weekend for Lindsey Vonn became clear to everyone else on Sunday.
The American skier’s surgically repaired knees simply don’t let her apply the power she requires to win races anymore.
The pain is too severe; the psychological impact too much to bear; her pride too great.
No wonder that Vonn is considering moving up her retirement.
After failing to finish a World Cup super-G, Vonn said leaving the sport immediately “is a possibility.”
“But I’m emotional right now,” Vonn quickly added. “I have to really think clearly about that. It’s not a decision I make lightly or quickly.”
Vonn added to reporters, “I’ll let you guys know.”
She was more decisive when interviewed by Swiss TV, saying “now it’s time to listen to my body and it’s time to say goodbye.”
Vonn was charging and in contention for a podium spot until a slight bobble bounced her slightly off track. Then she clipped a gate and couldn’t apply pressure on her right leg to force her way back onto the racing line, prompting her to miss the next gate.
And with that, Vonn stood up out of her tuck, hung her head and skied diagonally off the course.
“I’ve had four surgeries on my right knee. I’ve got no LCL (lateral collateral ligament) on my left knee. I’ve got two braces on. There’s only so much I can handle and I might have reached my maximum,” Vonn said. “I’m not sure. I’ve got to take a couple days’ time and really think about things.”
Vonn was planning on retiring in December. She returned this weekend from her latest injury – to her left knee – but her best result in three races was ninth in Saturday’s downhill.
The 34-year-old needs five more wins to break the all-time World Cup record of 86 victories held by Swedish great Ingemar Stenmark, but that seems like the last thing on her mind now.
Mikaela Shiffrin, Vonn’s American teammate, won Sunday’s race.
While Shiffrin is gaining on her – 54 wins to Vonn’s 82 – for now Vonn remains the winningest female skier of all-time.
“Her mentality was something we had never seen before,” said Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein, who finished second Sunday. “She raised the whole sport to the next level.”
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