Uncertainty clouds Vonn camp

Skier's still in pain following crash in Austria

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VANCOUVER — She is the Sports Illustrated cover girl and swim suit model and was expected to be the American golden girl at these Games. In fact, she had already been touted by the U.S. media the Michael Phelps of the Vancouver Olympics.

But now, Lindsey Vonn is just a girl interrupted... scared, frustrated and not particularly optimistic that she’ll be able to race in any of the five events she was expected to, if not win, at least medal.

“It’s been a very interesting ride, very emotional, very scared, not the positive way you want to be starting the Olympics,” an emotional Vonn said on Wednesday.

A week ago Tuesday, during slalom training in Austria, the dominate skier on this season’s World Cup circuit crashed awkwardly and badly injured her shin. Though it’s apparently not broken (she refused to let the U.S. team medical staff x-ray it), Vonn remains in “excruciating” pain with the ladies’ super combined training beginning Thursday in Whistler.

Vonn is a two-time world champion, a two-time World Cup overall champion and has already seven World Cup races this season, including two downhills in Lake Louise, Ab. The Minneapolis native had the chance to be the most celebrated athlete at these Games, but now that’s all in jeopardy, though she is trying everything possible to get healthy, including “cheese therapy.”

“I wrap my leg in cheese and it takes down the swelling,” said Vonn. “I’m pretty much doing everything and anything I can to make it feel better. And so far it seems to be working pretty well, it seems to be getting progressively better every day. (But) it’s going to be hard. All I can do is keep doing therapy, try my best to push through the pain. I think we’ll have a pretty good picture of how it’s going to look (Thursday).”

In one of the few moments of levity at the U.S. alpine team press conference on Wednesday, Vonn said the Topfen cheese used on her leg was not from her own cow. After winning the downhill in Val d’Isere, Frances in Dec. 2005, Vonn was awarded a cow, and named her new pet Olympe.

Sadly, Olympic greatness is the one feat that has alluded the American team superstar. Two days before the 2006 Turin Olympics, Vonn crashed during downhill training and injured her back, which basically killed any chance of winning a medal. She’s in the exact situation now, though Vonn said the injury this time around is much worse.

“Three days ago I would have said absolutely not,” said the West Wendover, NV. resident, when asked the chances of her being able to compete. “I don’t know how’s going to feel. I tried just putting my boot on my hotel room and I can tell you it’s excruciatingly painful. There’s no way around the pain. It’s there constantly.”

Vonn was taken aback when asked if the injury was a “built-in” excuse if she fails to live up to expectations at these Olympics.

“I honestly never thought of that,” she said, barely containing her anger. “There is no way I’m trying to give myself an excuse if I don’t do well. I wish that this had never happened and that I was coming in healthy and I had to deal with all the expectations with a healthy body. I’m still going to do the best I can and if I don’t do well, so be it.”


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