Lindsey Vonn doesn’t expect to return to ski racing until December, a little over a month after the World Cup season starts, citing “slow going” rehab from her latest knee surgery.
Vonn told The Associated Press on Saturday there was ”quite a bit of meniscus damage” after January surgery on the right knee she blew out at the 2013 World Championships last February and re-aggravated in November and December. That caused her to push back her time frame.
She said she hopes to be back on snow in October and skiing at World Cup races in Lake Louise, Alberta, in December. The delay is not too impactful, given the World Cup season doesn’t start until Oct. 25 and there are no speed races — Vonn’s best events — until Lake Louise on Dec. 5 (full schedule here).
Vonn also said she probably would have retired after the 2014-15 season had she not missed the Olympics.
“If I had raced in Sochi, that probably would have been the case,” Vonn said, according to the Denver Post. “Having not raced in Sochi, that totally changed everything. Barring anything [bad] happening, I’m committed to another four years. Even if I do well next year at the World Championships, I want to be able to have an opportunity to ‘defend’ my [2010 Olympic downhill] gold medal.”
Vonn, 29, spoke with the AP and the newspaper recently after the conclusion of the World Cup season, a circuit she last competed on Dec. 21.
Vonn conceded her bid to return for Sochi on Jan. 7, underwent another knee surgery one week later and worked for NBC during the Sochi Olympics rather than compete in Russia.
Vonn said she refused to watch the Olympic downhill and super-G, events she won gold and bronze in four years ago.
Outside of the World Cup, she’s focused on returning for the 2015 World Championships near her home in Vail, Colo., and the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.
Vonn would be 33 years old at the next Winter Games. If she competes in Pyeongchang and wins a medal, she will be the oldest women’s Olympic Alpine skiing medalist of all time.
Vonn has 59 career World Cup wins. She is second all-time among women behind Austrian Annemarie Moser-Proell, who had 62, and has long been thought to eventually break it, even with her major knee injuries.
The women’s Alpine skiing scene will be different when Vonn returns. Her longtime friendly rival, German Maria Hoefl-Riesch, has retired. Slovenian Tina Maze‘s races are numbered as she has said she won’t be around for the 2018 Olympics.
The new all-around star is Austrian Anna Fenninger, who won gold and silver in Sochi and finished the season on a tear to win her first World Cup overall title.
Fenninger is 24. U.S. teammate Mikaela Shiffrin just turned 19 and is expected to add super-G to her plate next season. Shiffrin is the Olympic, World and World Cup champion in slalom and has become a podium threat in giant slalom.
Those young forces will be the types of racers Vonn will have to fend off if she’s to return to the top of the sport, and stay there.