The Vonncouver Olympics may be on hold.
In an exclusive interview with NBC's "Today Show," Lindsey Vonn told Matt Lauer that she suffered a deep contusion on her shin during a practice run last week in Austria. The gold-medal favorite in alpine skiing has not been on the slopes since then and says even putting on her boots is "excruciatingly painful." As of now she still plans to ski in each of her five races, but she may have to limit her practice runs because of the injury. She did not rule out dropping one or all of her training events if the shin condition fails to improve.
Vonn sounds confident that she'll be able to compete in the races (after all, she nearly broke her back during a training run in Turin four years ago but still raced), but that pre-competition training might be compromised because, as of now, she's not even sure if she can get her boot on. This is a huge deal as skiers use these runs to familiarize themselves with the course. She would be at an enormous disadvantage without practice.
In the interview with Lauer, Vonn looked and sounded completely sincere about her injury and Lauer remarked that he's never seen her so despondent. But one still has to question the timing of this announcement. The Olympic cauldron gets lit in less than 72 hours. Why shift the focus to an injury now? If Vonn wanted to get reporters to stop asking about whether she can win five medals, she accomplished that. But now she'll have twice as many questions about her shin.
This news is just as bad for NBC, which has built a huge marketing campaign around Vonn and her quest to become the Michael Phelps of Vancouver. (Later in the week, Fourth-Place Medal will examine whether this is fair or not.) If she can't ski, the Winter Games immediately lose a lot of their luster and, as a result, a lot of viewers for the beleaguered network.
Vonn will attempt to get back on the slopes Thursday, three days before she's scheduled to make her Vancouver debut in the super combined slalom.