Exclusive: Lindsey Vonn on injury: 'I still have time before Sochi'

Lindsey Vonn told Matt Lauer she's "feeling good" ahead of the Sochi Games.
Lindsey Vonn told Matt Lauer she's "feeling good" ahead of the Sochi Games.TODAY

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By Scott Stump

Lindsey Vonn is "feeling good," she told Matt Lauer on Wednesday in TODAY exclusive interview, and still believes she'll compete in the upcoming Winter Games.

"The fall caused my knee to give out,'' she said. "If I hadn't had my brace on, I definitely would not have had anything left in my knee. It was one of those fluke-y things that sometimes happens. Unfortunately, it was really bad timing for me, but I'm still confident. I still feel like I have a lot left to achieve this season, I just have to kind of take it day by day right now, but I still have time before Sochi."

With less than three months to go before the Winter Olympics, Vonn suffered an injury in a crash last week when she partially tore one of the reconstructed ligaments in her surgically-repaired right knee. Vonn fell during a training run at Copper Mountain in Colorado, which also resulted in a bruised shoulder blade and minor abrasions on her face. 

"I was training downhill, (and) it was kind of a tricky course,'' Vonn said about her latest fall. "There was a compression turn. It was breaking up because there was a lot of guys training on the course with me, and my ski just kind of tracked out. I caught my edge and flipped over my skis and went headfirst into the fence." 

Lindsey Vonn, shown being helped off the slope at Copper Mountain, Colo., following a crash on Nov. 19, is hoping to recover from her latest setback to compete at a World Cup event in Canada next week as she tries to prepare for the Winter Olympics. Maris Can Slyke / Today

She has elected to skip this week’s World Cup races in Beaver Creek, Colo., as she recovers from her latest setback. She is hoping to feel enough stability in her knee to compete at next week's World Cup event at Lake Louise in Alberta, Canada. 

"I've been doing rehab and I've been progressing every day, but in the next couple of days I'm going to start getting on snow here at Vail and see how it feels and hopefully get a couple of days of training before I head up to Canada,'' she said. "If things go well, I'll be racing next week. If they don't, then I'm going to have to reassess and kind of see where I stand and if I can make a comeback for this season. I'm feeling good from rehab. I feel stable. I put some weight on it yesterday as far as doing some weighted balance exercises and doing some squats and things like that, and it felt really good, so I'm very hopeful, but, like I said, I really don't know until I get on snow."

But she admits she has some milestones to go. 

"I just need to feel stable when I'm on my skis," she told Lauer. "It's one thing to feel stable while you're doing squats, it's another thing to feel stable while you're actually racing at 90 miles an hour. There definitely is a long ways to go there, but I'm confident that it's going to be OK. At this point, that's all I can do — is stay positive. I'm kind of out of options at this point. I'm hoping that it's going to be stable and I'm hoping that I continue racing."

Lauer asked Vonn if her relentless quest to be ready for Sochi may have contributed to her latest setback. 

"I don't think I was pushing myself too hard,'' she said. "It just was unfortunately a fluke accident. That's the risk you take when you're going 80-90 miles an hour down a mountain. That's just part of the job, but I've picked myself back up, and I'm trying as hard as I can to keep going. I'm working as hard as I can, so I'm just fingers crossed that I can be racing next week because I've worked so hard all summer to get back to this point. I just want to get back in the starting gate."

The partial tear follows a Feb. 5 incident, in which Vonn tore the anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament in her right knee and fractured her tibia in a harrowing crash in Schlamding, Austria, at the Alpine skiing world championships. Only she two weeks after she underwent major knee surgery, she appeared on TODAY and vowed to be ready by the time the Winter Olympics rolled around.

On Oct. 28, Matt Lauer asked Vonn on TODAY if she'd make it to the medal stand.

“You better believe it,’’ Vonn said. “You better not doubt me.”

She has won an American-record four overall World Cup Championships and won the downhill gold medal at the 2010 Winter Olympics, making her the most accomplished female skier in U.S. history. She is three wins shy of tying the women's record of 62 World Cup race victories set by Austria's Annemarie Moser-Proell.