Competing on a knee that begs for surgery, the determined Vonn challenged herself on the treacherous course in her bid to qualify for the Sochi Olympics.
Partway through this opening run, she lost her balance, missed a gate, and skied off-course. Clutching her right knee she was visibly pained and nearly in tears, near the safety netting.
"It was a small compression, and it was fully loaded on the right ski and my knee just completely gave out. I tried to pressure the ski again and it gave out again. I had no chance of making that gate, unfortunately," said Vonn.
Skiing in just her second world cup stop this Olympics qualifying season, she still grapples with a “mind versus body” dilemma. Her courageous nature is now clashing with her weakened physical condition in withstanding icy runs that are laden with leg-twisting turns and bone-jarring jumps.
"I didn't hurt myself more than I'm already hurt," said Vonn, who is faced with once more resting her knee, and proceeding with physical therapy over the next few weeks.
As a result, she will skip the remaining world cup races in December, with hopes of resuming her run for the Sochi Olympics next month.
"I'm going to play it safe and race minimal races, so I can get the confidence and the timing and the feeling of racing again,” said Vonn. “I'm really going to be safe and smart as I can.
This cautious approach gnaws at Vonn’s inner risk-taking self. Further, with each setback like this, her typically confident psyché takes a hit. For each time she navigates a tight gate along a steep, mogul-laden course, she will be ever mindful that this turn could be her last.
Boyfriend Tiger Woods watched this harrowing scene unfold from the finish line, the first time he has seen her compete on-site. Vonn will soon return state-side for much needed rest and rehab.
Keep checking back for all my Team USA stories on athletes pursuing their lifelong dreams on the road to the Sochi Games.