Even after setbacks in November and December of last year in which she re-injured her knee during training, Lindsey Vonn had high hopes for the 2014 Winter Olympics. Alas, it was not to be. The Alpine skiing darling skipped the Sochi event as an official competitor and served as a corespondent for NBC News there.
But don’t count Vonn out. She is the most successful American ski racer in history. That’s not just as a woman; that’s both genders. She has won 59 World Cup races, two Olymbpic medals, five World Championships, and holds the medal record for women’s Alpine skiing.
Vonn is taking it easy, competition-wise, right now. She is healing, training, and getting back to form. She had meniscus damage with her last knee injury, making recovery tougher. But she tells the Denver Post that things are healing nicely.
"Everything is going really well," said Vonn. "The knee feels really good. With the meniscus stuff, I expected something to go wrong or there would be a setback of some sort, but there wasn't anything. It was great the whole time. I didn't have any pain, didn't have any swelling. It was quite a bit better than I expected."
Vonn plans to skip the Aspen competitions over Thanksgiving and hold out until the downhill and super-G races at Lake Louise, Alberta, in December.
Her injury means that Vonn is in a different training stage than the rest of her team, but she hopes to be able to catch up to them soon.
"I definitely have a different progression," Vonn said. "Everyone is already in race mode, they've been skiing in the summer and they're at a different stage in their prep period. I hope and anticipate being able to train with the rest of the team."
And Vonn definitely aims to be in the 2018 Olympics, even though she will be 34 years old when that comes around.
"Because I haven't really competed in two years, and that's a quite unusual for me — I've been competing since I was 9 years old — it's been frustrating for sure," Vonn said. "I'm ready to be racing again, I'm excited for this season. I had heard a couple of interviews where other girls had expected me to retire, and that's just not what's going to happen. I'm very fired up for this season and I'm looking forward to being back in the starting gate and being aggressive again.
"I'm definitely going to bring everything I have. I've got four more years left and I intend to make them count."
Vonn has previously spoken about the depression that can come from long periods of training in downhill skiing.
“I have good days and I have bad days,” she told the German magazine Focus.
Vonn recently visited Mt. Brighton, Minnesota, where she launched her new Ski Girls Rock program. She went through a 45-minute workout with the girls team at Brighton High, and worked with the instructors on a girl-focused program that will culminate in a series of three-day training weekends.
"Obviously academics come first, but they seem like they are incredibly enthusiastic and very motivated young women, and that's great to see," Vonn said. "I can only encourage them to continue working hard and keep enjoying what they're doing, because it's showing not just on the slopes but also off the slopes. Their attitude in general is really quite something. It's cool to see."