Accident knocks Vonn out of event

Updated: February 11, 2009, 12:55 PM ET
Associated Press

VAL D'ISERE, France -- Lindsey Vonn may be out of the world championships completely after tendon surgery to her right thumb, the result of cutting herself on a broken champagne bottle during a victory celebration.

The U.S. Ski Team said Wednesday that Vonn -- winner of the super-G and Monday's downhill -- is out of Thursday's giant slalom and has been downgraded to a possible starter for Saturday's slalom.

"Vonn received successful minor surgery Tuesday at the Privatklinik Hochrum near Innsbruck, Austria, to repair a tendon in her right thumb," the U.S. team said in a statement. "She will not start the women's giant slalom and will use the time to prepare for a possible start in Saturday's slalom."

Vonn's surgery came the day after she injured herself at Monday night's victory celebration.

"I'm incredibly thankful for the care I've had over the last two days," Vonn said Wednesday after returning to Val d'Isere. "Red Bull flew me to Innsbruck and the surgery went perfectly. Then we spent nearly a full day working ... to build specific splints to help me grip my pole without impact. ... "We'll see how things go the next few days, but I'm hoping to race slalom."

The splint held her thumb in place and reached up her forearm.

"There's nothing we can do about it. We've just got to move on," U.S. women's coach Jim Tracy said Wednesday. "It's one race. It happens. Now she'll get ready for the slalom on Saturday."

The slalom is the final women's race of the championships, and Vonn may want to skip that, too, to make sure she is in top form when the World Cup circuit resumes the following weekend in Tarvisio, Italy.

Vonn won the overall World Cup title last season and holds a 1,114-935 lead over Maria Riesch of Germany in this season's standings. Swedish standout Anja Paerson is third with 855 points.

Vonn couldn't open the champagne bottle after the cork broke. Someone used a ski to extract the remaining piece of cork, breaking the bottle in the process. Vonn didn't realize what happened and grabbed the damaged bottle as the champagne flowed.

U.S. Ski Team doctor Jeff Harrison applied four stitches to Vonn's thumb at the team hotel immediately after the accident.

"I don't know exactly what happened. None of us were there. It was a Rossignol party," Tracy said, referring to Vonn's ski manufacturer. "It is a little disappointing maybe that they didn't have anyone to take care of that."

U.S. Alpine director Jesse Hunt was ready to move on.

"At this point there isn't really any blame being tossed around," he said. "The reality is we're dealing with the situation and moving forward. If Lindsey is ready to race slalom, then we're going to be getting done everything that we wanted to get done here, which was to have her prepared for the events she can really win in."

Giant slalom has traditionally been Vonn's weakest event, with her best career finish fourth in a World Cup race in Aspen, Colo., last November. She won her first two World Cup slalom races this season, including one in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, the weekend before worlds.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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