We're still 79 days away from the start of the Olympic Games in Sochi. But at least in the world of alpine skiing, the game has officially changed.
The news Wednesday that Lindsey Vonn had reinjured her surgically repaired right knee in a training crash earlier in the week, suffering a partial tear of her reconstructed ACL along with facial lacerations and contusions all over her body, has significant ramifications for Vonn and the rest of the U.S. women's ski team.
The crash itself was an indication of how far Vonn still had to go in her comeback from the horrific injury she suffered back in February when she tore both the ACL and MCL in her right knee and fractured her tibia while competing in the Super G at the World Championships in Schladming, Austria.
It's mandatory, it's essential that an athlete at that level after an injury to push themselves again hard enough to know where they stand. And that's where we are with her. She was pushing herself hard enough to know where her body stands this week in training. Unfortunately, she didn't get the answer she was looking for just now.
And now, unfortunately for Vonn, there are no easy answers.
She doesn't know what's going to happen now, she doesn't know how long her body is going to take to recover, she doesn't know if the ACL is going to bother her or not.
But that may not be the biggest hurdle.
The mental aspect of this injury has just been elevated. Vonn will now have more of a challenge mentally and emotionally getting over this than physically, because of the crunch and the pressure. Before, she had enough time to let her body do its thing a little bit, but now she's out of time physically and that's when the mental and emotional roller coaster will start. This is the hardest time, when you don't know what's ahead.
On the plus side, I think Lindsey is going to find herself in familiar territory -- competing with a body that's got about 75% to give her. We've seen her win under these conditions before -- she won a gold and a bronze in Vancouver while skiing with an extremely bruised shin that made even putting on a ski boot difficult -- so it's not out of the question. But it has definitely become extremely challenging. The future is extremely uncertain.
This crash and this setback, it's a game-changer for me. It makes it very, very challenging for Lindsey to even qualify for the Olympics, let alone go.
And it's not just a game-changer for Vonn.
Every race that happens, all of her teammates have an opportunity to solidify a spot on the Olympic team -- and there are only four spots per discipline, people. So it's a game-changer for everybody. If I'm her teammate, I'm now going "Ooh, ooh, ooh, I have to get myself qualified now while she's potentially sidelined so that when she comes back, I've got my spot and I don't have to worry about her taking it from me."
As for Lindsey, she needs to just remember that she is the best. Keep telling yourself you are the best and have people around you that are going to tell you that you are the best, because now she'll start to question that. If her body won't work for her and give her what she needs from it, inevitably she'll start to question that and she can't let that happen.