Lindsey Vonn eyes January return from her ‘most painful injury’

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Lindsey Vonn hopes to return to racing in January after severely fracturing the humerus bone in her right arm in a Nov. 10 training crash that was “by far the most painful injury” of her career.

In a recent interview with NBC Sports’ Steve Porino, Vonn said doctors at first gave her a conservative estimate of 10 to 12 weeks to return.

Then, after strong early progress following surgery, her doctor said it could be more like eight weeks until she’s racing.

“I normally heal pretty well, but you never know, so I’m just kind of hoping for some time in January,” Vonn said.

The four-time World Cup overall champion compiled a laundry list of injuries, mostly from crashes, in the last decade.

This one was different. Vonn is usually able to stop taking pain medication a day or two after surgery. This time, it took a week and a half.

On Nov. 10, Vonn lost an edge, did the splits, turned backwards, went off a little jump and landed on her arm and then into netting in Copper Mountain, Colo., weeks before her anticipated World Cup season debut.

“I could feel my bones hitting together and hitting the nerve,” Vonn said. “It was brutal.

“When I’m laying on the ground, I’m thinking, you’ve got to be kidding me. How do I keep doing this? I don’t know. I’ve toned down my training. I’ve tried to limit my risk as much as I can, but unfortunately it’s a high-risk sport.”

Vonn’s spirits are lifted by two goals. First, to break the World Cup career wins record of 86 held by retired Swede Ingemar Stenmark. Vonn is 10 victories shy.

Given she won nine races in an injury-shortened 2015-16 season, it was reasonable to think Vonn could have reached the record this year. Until that crash.

“That’s the record that’s really getting me out of bed every day,” said Vonn, who turned 32 on Oct. 18.

If Vonn returns in January, she will miss at least five of the 15 scheduled World Cup races in her best events — downhill and super-G.

Next season, Vonn will be older than any woman who has ever won an Olympic, world championships or World Cup race, except for Austrian Elisabeth Goergl, who won once at the age of 33.

“If I couldn’t ski anymore, that would be the only thing that would prohibit me from trying to break the record,” Vonn said. “I’m so close.”

The second goal is the 2018 Olympics. Vonn won downhill gold in 2010 but missed the 2014 Winter Games due to injury.

“If I didn’t have the records and the Olympics coming up, I might retire,” Vonn said, “but I still have a lot I want to accomplish, and that keeps me going.”

Vonn plans to get X-Rays every two weeks to see how the bone is healing and when she can return to snow. She has plans mapped out for best-, average- and worst-case scenarios.

More key races this season are the world championships in February in St. Moritz, Switzerland, and a downhill and super-G at the 2018 Olympic venue in March. Vonn has marked a date by which she is desperate to return.

“But that’s my little secret,” she said, smiling.

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