Lindsey Vonn was one of the most recognizable U.S. Winter Olympians entering the 2014 Games. She was already the 2010 Olympic downhill champion. A bevy of sponsors and a high-profile relationship with Tiger Woods helped make her a household name.
But the closest she got to the slopes in Sochi was as an Olympic correspondent for NBC, thanks to her right knee.
Vonn’s pre-Olympic injury struggles started at the 2013 World Championships, which took place about a year before the 2014 Games. She crashed during the super-G and blew out her right knee. She had to be airlifted to a nearby hospital.
She returned to skiing in late August, but delayed her comeback after partially tearing her right ACL during a training run in November. She was able to return to World Cup competition in December, finishing as high as fifth in a super-G on Dec. 8, less than two months before the start of the 2014 Olympics. After the race, she declared “I’m ready for Sochi.”
But her surgically repaired right knee swelled up after skiing out of a downhill race in Val d’Isere, France, on Dec. 21.
On Jan. 7, exactly one month before the Sochi Opening Ceremony, Vonn announced that she would miss the Olympics because her knee was “too unstable to compete at this level.”
While sidelined, the skiing spotlight shifted to fellow Americans Ted Ligety, Bode Miller and Mikaela Shiffrin. Ligety became the first Olympic giant slalom champion from the United States. Miller earned bronze in super-G, becoming the oldest medalist in Olympic Alpine history. Shiffrin became the youngest Olympic slalom gold medalist.
Vonn has had to overcome other injuries in recent years. She broke her right arm during a November 2016 training crash, which affected her ability to hold her ski pole. Three months later, using duct tape to keep her glove on her pole, Vonn won the super-G bronze medal at the 2017 World Championships. At 32, she became the oldest female Alpine skier to win a world championship medal.
“The biggest challenge that I’ve faced in my career are all of my injuries,” Vonn said. “I hope that I just stay healthy from now on.”