Cut thumb is only latest drama for Vonn
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
VAL D’ISERE, France ” Near misses. High-speed crashes. Injuries. Bizarre accidents.
Drama seems to follow Lindsey Vonn at major championships.
The latest is tendon surgery to her right thumb, the result of cutting herself on a broken champagne bottle during a victory celebration. The injury could end a world championships that until now had been golden with titles in the super G and downhill.
The U.S. team said Wednesday that Vonn is out of Thursday’s giant slalom and has been downgraded to possible starter for Saturday’s slalom.
Vonn, of Vail, Colo., had surgery Tuesday in Innsbruck, Austria, after her mishap Monday night. She was seen leaving the clinic with a splint that held her thumb and extended to her forearm.
“I’m incredibly thankful for the care I’ve had over the last two days,” Vonn said after returning to Val d’Isere.
Her husband, former U.S. ski racer Thomas Vonn, and Jeff Harrison, the U.S. team physician, were with her the entire time. Vonn is now trying to adapt to splints that will allow her to grip the pole without hurting her thumb.
“We’ll see how things go the next few days,” she said. “But I’m hoping to race slalom.”
At her first worlds in Bormio-Santa Caterina four years ago, Vonn was reduced to tears after just missing the podium with fourth-place finishes in the combined and downhill.
A year later at the Turin Olympics, Vonn crashed during downhill training and was hospitalized before bouncing back to compete in all five of her events. Her best result was seventh in super G.
Then at the last worlds in Are, Sweden, two years ago, Vonn injured her knee in training after winning two silver medals. She missed her final two events and the rest of the season.
“It’s tough being a five-event skier,” U.S. Alpine director Jesse Hunt said.
Vonn might sit out the rest of these championships, too, to make sure she is in top form when the World Cup circuit resumes the following weekend in Tarvisio, Italy.
Vonn won the overall World Cup title last season and holds a 1,114-935 lead over Maria Riesch of Germany in this season’s standings. Swedish standout Anja Paerson is third with 855 points.
This latest injury happened when she couldn’t open the champagne bottle after the cork broke. Someone used a ski to extract the remaining piece of cork, breaking the bottle in the process. Vonn unknowingly grabbed the damaged bottle as the champagne flowed. Harrison immediately put in four stitches at the team hotel.
“I don’t know exactly what happened. None of us were there. It was a Rossignol party,” U.S. women’s head coach Jim Tracy said, referring to Vonn’s ski manufacturer. “It is a little disappointing maybe that they didn’t have anyone to take care of that.”
Hunt was ready to look ahead.
“At this point there isn’t really any blame being tossed around,” he said. “The reality is we’re dealing with the situation and moving forward. If Lindsey is ready to race slalom, then we’re going to be getting done everything that we wanted to get done here, which was to have her prepared for the events she can really win in.”
“The bottom line is things happen,” Hunt added. “It’s unfortunate, certainly. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed, but I do understand that things happen.”
Giant slalom has traditionally been Vonn’s weakest event, with her best career finish fourth in a World Cup race in Aspen last November. She won her first two World Cup slalom races this season, including one in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, the weekend before worlds.
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