U.S. Skiing champion Linsey Vonn had a bad feeling before the start of the woman’s super-G at the world alpine championships that took place in Schladming, Austria on Feb. 5.
Scheduled to race in the morning, the start was delayed for 3 ½ hours because of a thick fog hanging over the course. When she finally did get to race, her fears became reality as she went long on a jump and crashed hard, tearing her ACL and MCL in her right knee along with a lateral tibial plateau.
The injuries took her out for the remainder of the season and on Friday, she spoke out on her recovery and pointed a partial finger of blame to the race judges at the super-G for not being mindful enough of athlete safety.
"I don't think the jury made the right call," Vonn said to journalists on a teleconference, "The fog came in and delayed the start of the race. We were waiting on the edge of our seats for hours. I had no chance to go back to my bus and relax. When I was at the start, I was ready to go, but I had no idea what the course conditions were. I inspected the course at 8 a.m. and I ran the course at about 3:15.
"I skied aggressively, but when I was skiing, I couldn't believe the conditions. The snow was too soft. It had broken down. I didn't think it was safe."
Days of snow and rain had affected the course and softened the surface especially in the lower part. According to U.S. Ski Team press officer Doug Haney, Schladming received a foot and a half of fresh snow the Monday before the race. To top it off, participants weren't able to get a feel of the course in the days leading up to the event due to the extreme conditions.
"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," Vonn wrote in a special for The Denver Post before the race.
"But because it snowed so much, they closed it to everyone including coaches. None of our staff has been on the hill. We don't know what shape the hill is in. We don't know anything about it."
It was that bad weather and fresh snow that proved to be her downfall.
"My right knee completely stopped," she said. "That's when my knee buckled, and I flipped over the tip.”
While her surgery was a success and all signs are pointing for a full recovery before she is to defend her Olympic title in Feb. 2014, she still believes that more should have been done to prevent the situation she was in.
"I told (coach) Alex (Hoedlmoser), 'They should stop the race. It's not safe to run,' " Vonn said. "Apparently they didn't do that. I just hope in the future they really think hard about what the conditions are like, because athlete safety should come first and foremost."
Vonn had won 18 of the last 28 World Cup super-G races. She is the four-time defending World Cup champion in the discipline.
James LeBeau is a contributor for CraveOnline Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @JleBeau76 or subscribe on Facebook.com/CraveOnlineSports.
Photo Credit: Getty