Alpine Skier Lindsey Vonn May Be Out Of Olympics

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The biggest American star going into the Vancouver Olympics may be out before the games even start. Alpine skier Lindsey Vonn suffered a shin injury last week and said Wednesday that putting her ski boots on causes "excruciating pain." She will announce Thursday whether she will compete, and if so, in which events.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

American Alpine skier Lindsey Vonn has been billed as one of the megastars of the upcoming Winter Olympics. But, today, two days before the opening ceremony in Vancouver, there's news that Vonn might not even get to the starting gate. She announced to startled reporters that a painful leg injury might stop her from racing.

From Vancouver, NPR's Tom Goldman reports.

TOM GOLDMAN: Reporters had their questions ready as Lindsey Vonn took the stage for today's morning press conference. Sure, six of her U.S. teammates were there, too, but unfairly or not, this gathering was about Vonn, the Sports Illustrated cover girl who the U.S. media, at least, has pegged as the Michael Phelps of the Vancouver Games. So, the questioners were ready.

Lindsey, how are you dealing with the expectations? How many medals will you win? But then the whole affair took a sharp detour.

Ms. LINDSEY VONN (Alpine Skier): I was feeling great, I was healthy, I had no problems and now I'm sitting here today questioning whether, you know, I'll be even able to ski.

GOLDMAN: Vonn says she suffered a slalom training injury last Tuesday. She says it's a deep bruise to her right shin that's excruciatingly painful.

Ms. VONN: It happens to be exactly where my boot hits my leg. You know, it's probably the worst place that you can have an injury because you're constantly pushing against your boot and there's no way around it. You know, you can't just pretend like it's not there. You feel it in every turn.

GOLDMAN: It is, says Vonn, the most painful injury she's ever had, which is saying a lot. Part of her lore as an Alpine skier is how she's endured numerous and often serious injuries and still performed so well- six World Cup tiles in her career. Vonn says she's doing everything she can to heal including laser therapy and wrapping her leg, believe it or not, in cheese, which she says helps to reduce swelling.

While she's willing to try different remedies, Vonn refuses to get an x-ray to see if what she calls a bruise actually may be a hairline fracture, which would definitely end her Olympics. She was asked after the press conference if that's causing any friction with her doctors because they'd want to know if her leg's broken.

Ms. VONN: Yeah, they would, but I...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. VONN: I said no. And so they respect that and we'll just do the best with what we have.

GOLDMAN: Vonn will try skiing tomorrow for the first time since the injury and decide then what to do, curtail her training, drop out of some of the five Olympic races in which she's scheduled to compete or drop out completely and leave a certain void in these winter games.

Tom Goldman, NPR News, Vancouver.

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