GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany — Lindsey Vonn is playing it safe.
No longer willing to risk further injury as she copes with the aftereffects of a mild concussion, the Olympic downhill champion has decided to withdraw from her remaining events at the world championships.
“It’s been a really difficult few weeks and at every stage, I’ve had 100 percent confidence in the medical advice I’ve been provided and believe we’ve made the right decisions,” Vonn said. “I’m a competitor and I love to race — that’s what makes this a really tough choice, but I do feel it’s the right one.”
Vonn fell on her head during training in Austria the week before the worlds and was clearly not her normal self during her opening events, reporting that she felt like she was “skiing in a fog,” and was unable to maintain her concentration for an entire run.
“My plan now will be to take some time off and try to get 100 percent healthy again,” Vonn said. “My hope is that I will be healthy and fresh when the World Cup tour resumes at the end of the month in Are, Sweden.”
That Vonn was cleared to ski when still reporting such symptoms drew a wave of criticism. If a second impact occurs before someone completely gets over an initial concussion it can have life-altering effects.
Vonn had a head scan the day after her crash but was never banned from skiing by the U.S. team. She passed a series of concussion protocol exams multiple times each day during the championships.
Vonn’s injury comes amid heightened awareness of head injuries, including a concussion that has sidelined hockey’s biggest star, Sidney Crosby, indefinitely.
Vonn finished seventh in super-G, pulled out after the downhill portion of the super-combined and took silver in the downhill Sunday.
She will miss the giant slalom and slalom, plus the team event.
The three-time defending overall World Cup champion, Vonn trails German rival and good friend Maria Riesch by 156 points in this season’s standings, with four more stops remaining after the worlds.
Vonn made her decision after consulting with U.S. women’s team head physician William Sterett, who has been testing her, and her husband and chief adviser Thomas, a former U.S. Ski Team racer. She will be heading out of Garmisch but will remain in Europe as she rests and recovers, said U.S. Ski Team spokesman Doug Haney.
“She will continue to be evaluated throughout the whole period leading up to Are and once she’s confident to get back to competition mode she’ll make a decision about entering the training runs there, that’s her goal,” Haney said.
The opening downhill training run in Are is scheduled for Feb. 23.
However, there is no guarantee that Vonn will race in Are, or anywhere else for the rest of this season if she doesn’t start feeling better.
“Anything is possible at this point, but a decision on Are will be made as it gets closer,” Haney said. “Her ultimate goal is to get back into the starting gate in Are.”
Vonn has been bothered by injury at her last five major championships.
At last year’s Vancouver Olympics, she battled through a severely bruised shin to win the downhill and take bronze in the super-G.
At the last worlds in Val d’Isere, France, she sliced her thumb open on a champagne bottle after sweeping gold in downhill and super-G, forcing her out of the giant slalom.
At the 2007 worlds in Are, she injured her knee in training and missed the slalom and giant slalom; and at the 2006 Turin Olympics, she had a horrific crash in downhill training and went directly from her hospital room to the mountain to compete in four of her five events.