It’s hard to image that Lindsey Vonn could augur something as terrible as what occurred during the World Championships in Austria Tuesday.
She crashed midway through the opening race, had to be airlifted out (as was protocol), as she suffered a torn medial collateral ligament and a lateral tibial plateau fracture in her right knee, according to the U.S. Ski Team’s medical personnel. Her timetable for return, with the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games almost exactly a year away, is not an impossible one but it’s certainly in doubt.
She didn’t fully understand the ramifications, you never can, of what she wrote ‘Special to the Denver Post’ just a day prior, but the skier with 59 World Cup wins and a pair of Olympic medals knew something was amiss.
“I feel like I know the hill pretty well,” wrote Vonn. The race was pushed back a day, and more importantly, their ability to examine the course they were about race was nearly nonexistent due to the weather. “It always feels a little awkward when you don't get a chance to free ski the hill before you race. It's tricky to know the terrain when all you have to go on is course inspection the morning of the race.”
Vonn’s experience, including having raced and won a World Cup event on this mountain before, wasn’t nearly enough.
An essential part of being adequately prepared is the ability to get a look at the slope. Testing conditions and lines are crucial factors especially with the magnitude of the race at hand. They weren’t allowed to see the course. Vonn, along with her competitors were basically skiing blind-folded.
“We were supposed to have free skiing on the race course Monday, which means two or three runs for you to learn about the terrain and snow conditions. But because it snowed so much, they closed it to everyone including coaches. None of our staff has been on the hill,” Vonn admonished the naivety of it all just hours before her tragic race. “We don't know what shape the hill is in. We don't know anything about it.”
So when her right knee buckled after landing a high-speed jump there was little anyone could do. The damage had been done, reports from the finish area said there was silence.
Vonn could have never ever predicted such a horrific outcome, weather conditions and overall preparedness aside.
“I'm going to do what I always do: stay relaxed and prepare like there is going to be a race Tuesday. If there is, I'll be ready, and if there isn't, I'll be ready whenever the race happens,” reads the letter that continues to be haunting in the aftermath.