By Barry Janoff
January 7, 2014: Lindsey Vonn, arguably the most high-profile and highly marketed athlete in the Winter Olympics, said she would be unable to compete in the Games next month due to her injured knee.
Vonn said this morning that she would need surgery on her injured right knee, which would keep her out of action for months.
"I am devastated to announce that I will not be able to compete in Sochi," wrote via her official Web site, Facebook and Twitter destination. "I did everything I possibly could to somehow get strong enough to overcome having no ACL but the reality has sunk in that my knee is just too unstable to compete at this level."
Vonn had been seeking to try for skiing medals in her fourth Winter Games, dating back to 2002. Her best Olympics showing was in Vancouver in 2010 when she won gold in downhill and bronze in the Super-G. She also has numerous gold and silver medals in the World Championships.
These, in addition to her other accomplishments on the slopes, have made her popular with marketers. Among her current endorsement deals are Under Armour, Rolex, Oakley, Red Bull and P&G.
Vonn is in a current Under Armour commercial (pictured above) that specifically references her comeback. She also appears on the cover of the current issue of Red Bull's The Red Bulletin, decked out in boxing gear with the text: "Lindsey Vonn Pulls No Punches."
Vonn, 29, has been plagued by knee problems for the past year. She required surgery following a crash at the World Championships last February to reconstruct two knee ligaments. She partially re-tore one ligament in November. She competed in the World Cup in early December but suffered another challenge when she stumbled and sprained her knee during an event in in Val d'Isere, France, on Dec. 21.
Following that incident, she wrote on her Twitter page, "Bummed about today. Skiing with no ACL is hard! Will see how it responds over the next few days and then make a plan #notgivingup #Sochi2014."
Through it all, Vonn has had the support of her boyfriend, golfer Tiger Woods.
"On a positive note, this means there will be an additional spot so that one of my teammates can go for gold," Vonn said in her statement. "Thank you all so much for all of the love and support. I will be cheering for all of the Olympians and especially team USA!"
Responded U.S. ski team member Stacey Cook on her Facebook page, "Bummed Lindsey Vonn. Our team is not the same without you. You leave big shoes to fill for the rest of the year."
Picabo Street, who won a gold medal in Super G during the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, wrote on her Twitter page, "Lindsey Vonn has pulled out of the Winter Olympics in Sochi:(:( her heart must be broken! Hang in there @lindseyvonn we love you!!!"
Vonn might still be part of the Games if broadcast network NBC asks her to join as an analyst and Vonn accepts. During a media event held in New York hours after Vonn revealed that she would not be competing in Sochi, NBC executives said they would "give her some time" before deciding whether or not to approach her regarding having a role in the Games.
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