Lindsey Vonn may have missed the first race of the season, but the Olympic downhill champion said she feels no trepidation about her surgically repaired right knee and can’t even tell which knee is injured anymore.
“I work hard, that’s what I do,” Vonn told Matt Lauer on TODAY on Monday morning. “I fall. I get back up. It’s who I am. Obviously, this is the biggest setback I’ve ever had, but I’m skiing really well. I’ve only been on snow for a few days, but I’m already almost right back where I was. So things are looking up.”
Vonn hasn’t competed since tearing the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in her right knee and breaking her tibia in a crash at the World Championships super-G in Schladming, Austria, on Feb. 5. She’s expected to return for races in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Thanksgiving weekend.
The 29-year-old said retirement wasn’t an option.
“I don’t want that to be the final moment of my career,” Vonn said. “Obviously, I could have retired, and I have a lot to be proud of. There’s a lot more I want to do. Sochi is a huge goal of mine. I had plenty of motivation. I wasn’t going to just sit there and accept what I had already done.”
One of the people who helped her get through rehabilitation was her boyfriend, Tiger Woods. Vonn pointed out one of Woods’ attributes that has really helped her.
“Patience,” she said. “I’m not a very patient person. … He’s very patient, and he’s very mentally tough. He’s a grinder. He works extremely hard.”
Woods had left ACL surgery five years ago.
“He knew what I was going through,” Vonn said. “He said, ‘Just be patient. Keep working hard, and everything’s going to turn around.’ It really helped me get through it. It’s tough. You’re sitting there, grinding away in the gym, and it’s like is this ever going to end? Am I ever going to get back on the slopes?”
Asked if she would make the podium in Sochi in a little over 100 days, Vonn said, “You better believe it.”
Vonn hoped to race in the season-opening World Cup giant slalom in Soelden, Austria, on Saturday but opted out of it Wednesday. She expects, instead, to make her season debut in Beaver Creek.
“To be honest, Soelden was never really in my goals,” Vonn told USA Today. “But then (September training in) Chile went so well I was really hoping to race. I’m very, very antsy to get going. … My knee felt great, but the fact is I only trained five days (in Soelden) … and it’s tough to go into one of the most difficult giant slalom races of the season having only trained five days. I thought I was going to be able to do it, but in the long run it has no effect on my season and my main goal is the Olympics.”