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Lindsey Vonn and Bode Miller won the overall globes at the FIS Alpine World Cup in Bormio, Italy, in 2008 — the first American sweep of the event in 25 years.
Lindsey Vonn and Bode Miller won the overall globes at the FIS Alpine World Cup in Bormio, Italy, in 2008 — the first American sweep of the event in 25 years. Agence Zoom/Getty Images
Even though the Vancouver Winter Olympics haven't started yet, Thursday could be the biggest day of the games for U.S. Alpine skiing star Lindsey Vonn.
Vonn is hoping to take part in a morning training run as a way to test her injured right leg. Vonn's injury became huge news Wednesday when she announced it may be too painful for her to compete in the Olympics.
Imagine it was several days before the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics began, and swimming sensation Michael Phelps announced he might not compete at all. Vonn is Vancouver's Michael Phelps — although she doesn't much like the comparison.
Vonn is the Alpine "queen in waiting," the Sports Illustrated cover girl projected to win multiple medals including gold. This is her third Olympics, and while she's never won an Olympic medal, before the injury she was in top form.
When Vonn made her surprise announcement, it sounded indeed as if her time had passed. She didn't sound optimistic as she described the badly bruised right shin she suffered in a slalom training accident in Austria last week.
She said she hadn't skied since the crash, and when she simply tried to put on a ski boot this week it was "excruciating." "This is definitely the most painful injury I've ever had," Vonn added.
In December, she crashed and hurt her wrist. "It's not as hard to ski with a wrist injury as it is to ski with a shin injury," Vonn said. "So it's going to be very, very challenging and very difficult."
Vonn stayed in Austria after the injury and used a little home-country treatment: She covered her leg in Austrian Topfen cheese. It apparently has anti-swelling, healing properties.
Orthopedic surgeon Bill Sterett, Vonn's longtime doctor, said a lot of athletes have used the Topfen cheese with good results. There was, however, a fair amount of giggling in the press corps about the cheesy remedy.
Sterett said Vonn is on the mend and that he joked with her Tuesday night when he asked her how much better she was than last week.
"She said she's 62 percent. And then she said no, 62.5 percent better."
Sterett said, "I do think she's better today than she was before. So I think she's well on her way to looking very good for these Olympics."
Vonn has a history of overcoming bad injuries — including a terrifying spill two days before the last winter games in 2006. Amazingly, she came back and raced in those Olympics, even though she was badly bruised and sore.
Sunday is the first of five events in which Von is scheduled to race.
Vonn was projected as the megastar of the Vancouver games. Four years ago, it was another American Alpine skier destined for stardom: Bode Miller.
His big medal haul in 2006 didn't happen. But now he's back, and he met with reporters Wednesday as well.
Labeled the skiing iconoclast, Miller grew up in a cabin in the woods of New Hampshire with no electricity or indoor plumbing.
A talented and hellbent-for-leather speed skier, Miller won two Olympic silver medals in 2002. He went into the 2006 games with huge expectations, and then flamed out.
Miller says he's feeling strong and he's ready to run. Olympic fans are interested in seeing how Miller performs this time around, without the huge expectations.