ALTENMARKT-ZAUCHENSEE, Austria (AP) — Lindsey Vonn is taking “a lot of risk of doing more damage” to her right arm when she returns to World Cup skiing this weekend, nine weeks after breaking her right upper arm.
Surgery has made the arm more vulnerable to another fracture if she has to break a fall, the four-time overall champion said on Thursday.
“For the rest of my career there will definitely be a lot of risk,” Vonn said. “The plate is stable but obviously above the plate my arm is susceptible to another fracture. As I have already a plate in there, it becomes a very complicated surgery if I were to do that.”
Vonn would have to fly back immediately to the clinic in Vail, Colorado, where she underwent surgery in November, in case it happens.
“They have to be either taking out the plate and do another plate, or two plates on top of each other,” the American said. “That is a very complicated surgery.”
Vonn suffered the injury in a training crash on Copper Mountain, Colorado, while recovering from a left knee injury that ended her last season prematurely in February.
Late Wednesday, Vonn revealed she struggled with nerve damage so severe she couldn’t even move her fingers soon after the surgery in November. She posted a 5 1/2-minute video on her Facebook page which showed glimpses of her nine-week rehab. The video had more than one million views the following day.
Vonn said on Thursday she was “very scared” whether she would be able to use her hand in a normal way again. Two months later, she was still hampered in daily life by its reduced mobility, but was able to hold her ski pole as “the grip is strong.”
In races, she was not planning to wear special protection except for double paddings under her race suit.
“It’s certainly not going to be aerodynamic but it will be protective somewhat,” Vonn said.
A record 76-time winner, Vonn’s return was postponed for a day after downhill training was canceled on Thursday because of bad weather. The final training was scheduled for Friday, though more snowfall was forecast.
“I am going crazy if we are not able to race,” said Vonn, who was accompanied by one of her dogs, spaniel Lucy, during a news conference. As it was broadcast live on Austrian TV, she answered most questions in German.
Asked about her goals, Vonn said she believed she could still win the downhill and super-G title despite missing half of the season.
“I really look at it with the perspective of last year,” she said. “I won the downhill title and I didn’t finish in two races and I missed one. There are three (downhill) races I missed so far this season and only two super-G races. I definitely think it’s possible.
“It depends how Ilka (Stuhec) and Lara (Gut) do, but if I can consistently be fast, then I have a good chance.”
The knee fractures and broken arm were the latest setbacks in a career that has been marred by injuries. Various injuries forced her out of the world championships in 2007, ‘11 and ‘13, and she missed the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Still, Vonn said she would compete as long as ski racing brings her joy.
“To me ski racing is like air: I need it, the adrenalin, the speed,” she said. “I love it more than anything else.”