Serious injuries are one of the hazards of elite ski racing, which this season has even seen the deaths of two male racers, France’s two-time Olympian David Poisson and German teenager Max Burkhart.
Be it a jarred back, fractured humerus or season-ending injuries that include a fractured left ankle (2016), wrecked right knee (2014) and left knee (2013), Vonn has suffered a catalogue of mishaps that has left her relying on more than a couple of reconstructed body parts.
“I’m just counting on some medical miracles to extend my career,” said Vonn, who missed the 2014 Sochi Games with a knee injury.
The 33-year-old, who will target a second Olympic downhill gold on Wednesday after winning in Vancouver in 2010, has confirmed she will race as long as she can, primarily in her bid to beat Ingemar Stenmark’s World Cup win record of 86. The four-time World Cup overall champion’s tally is currently 81.
After finishing fourth in Tuesday’s final downhill training, won by Austrian Ramona Siebenhofer, Vonn reiterated that it was highly unlikely she would make it through to the 2022 Beijing Olympics.
“It’s 99.9 percent sure I won’t,” the American said, speaking in Pyeongchang.
“But who knows, something will come out and they’ll fix my knee up and I’ll be like ‘Robo-knee’ and be able to ski 10 more years, that would be ideal.”
Vonn, one of the most recognisable faces at the Olympics in South Korea, added: “I love what I do, I have so much fun going fast and pushing myself to the limit on downhill skis, there’s nothing else I’d rather do.
“If I could physically continue skiing, then I absolutely will, but at this point it takes a lot to make my knee good enough to ski downhill, it has to be pretty solid to push yourself at these speeds and be able to trust it.”
– ‘Really logical’ –
Vonn will go into Wednesday’s downhill as a firm favourite on the Jeongseon course.
Coming down first on Tuesday, she said her descent felt “pretty good”, although she missed a gate high up the piste.
“I was definitely trying a few things with line and the reason I missed that gate was because I didn’t slip the line running number one,” she said.
“But I’m not worried about it at all… I’m happy, it was solid training.”
Turning to her optimal bib number, Vonn said she would wait until she saw which number Italian rival and close friend Sofia Goggia chose.
“It really depends on what Sofia chooses, I’m picking right behind her so I would like to start behind her,” she said.
“I like knowing what times my competitors get and how they’re skiing.
“Before nine is ideal because after the television break they slip and there’s loose snow on the slope.”
Vonn, who came sixth in Saturday’s super-G, also played down any sign of pressure, saying it was illogical to get stressed out by what could potentially be her last Olympic downhill.
“It’s all or nothing so there’s really no reason to be nervous or to think about pressure or expectation,” she said.
“Either I win or lose, if I’m nervous I’m going to lose anyway so what’s the point? It’s a really logical way of looking at it.”