After multiple surgeries on her knees, professional skier Lindsey Vonn is still suffering severe pain and may have to retire from competition almost a year earlier than she had planned.
The 34-year-old Olympic gold medalist returned to the slopes this weekend for the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup in Cortina D’Ampezzo, Italy, after a few weeks off to recover from her latest surgery. She has been doing special rehabilitation exercises to help her, and competed with braces on both of her knees.
In the downhill competition on Saturday, January 19, Vonn finished in ninth place. However, she was unable to complete the super-G race on Sunday, January 20.
She later told the press that it may have been her very last race.
“But I’m emotional right now. I have to really think clearly about that. It’s not a decision I make lightly or quickly,” Vonn said, according to the Associated Press.
She then talked to an interviewer from a Swiss television station, telling the outlet that she has to “listen to [her] body and it’s time to say goodbye.”
“I’ve had four surgeries on my right knee. I’ve got no LCL [lateral collateral ligament] on my left knee. I’ve got two braces on. There’s only so much I can handle, and I might have reached my maximum.”
Prior to Sunday’s race, the athlete thought she would be able to continue competing throughout 2019 and retire in December.
One of the reasons why she may want to continue competing is to try to break a world record. Currently, Sweden’s Ingemar Stenmark holds the World Cup circuit record with 86 victories. Vonn, who is already the winningest female skier of all-time, needs just five more wins to top him.
“[This] definitely isn’t the way I had hoped things would go. I’ve been able to fight through a lot of injuries in my career, but I think my injuries might get the best of me at this point,” she sadly said.
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First, I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart to Cortina and all of the fans who came to the farewell ceremony tonight. It was very emotional for me and something I will never forget. I am so lucky to have had so many incredible memories from this magical place; from my first World Cup podium to breaking the women’s win record, Cortina has always been good to me. Tomorrow I will savor my last run down this track and wave my final goodbye to my loyal Cortina fans ❤️???????? Love you all very much
Vonn knows that she still has a full life ahead of her and doesn’t want to do any further damage to her knees.
“I want to be able to walk without pain when I’m older and, hopefully some day, I’ll be able to ski with my kids, and that’s important to me,” she told CNN’s Alpine Edge.
“There will be long-term effects — I will have arthritis, I will have joint pain, I will have a lot of pain in a lot of different places, but I still want to finish on my own terms.”
As for what she might do next, Vonn said that she is thinking about taking up acting, something her pal Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson believes she can do.